American Children’s books

Choose two children’s books.

Analyze the books using the ten points/categories in the handout.

Put the title of your book on top of your paper, be sure to include the author, publisher, illustrator, and year the book was published. 

Provide at least five examples from your book per category listed in the handout.

Ex: 1. Check the illustrations:



in the book I chose there is a picture of XYZ that is stereotyping Native Americans. 

          2. In this book the mother is always wearing an apron and doing the dishes



XYZ is stereotyping XYZ because XYZ







2. Check the Storyline:




Your book might not hit every point, you can put N/A if you are absolutely sure there are no examples of this point in your book. If you do not believe your book includes examples of more than eight of the points we are looking to analyze, then you need to choose another book.

Assignments should be submitted as an editable document, not a pdf or photo (see the syllabus for more information).

If your computer is not compatible with d2l you can use the computer labs on campus. 

We are looking for depth that indicates a full understanding of the content of the topic. Be mindful that you are engaging in an analysis using a proven tool, avoid interjecting your personal opinion on quality.

I have attached the paper below with the 10 







Louise Derman-Sparks and the A.B.C. Task Force

Both in school and out, young children are exposed to racist and sexist

attitudes. These attitudes–expressed over and over in books and in other

media–gradually distort their perceptions until stereotypes and myths about

minorities and women are accepted as reality. It is difficult for a librarian or

teacher to convince children to question society’s attitudes. But if a child

can be shown how to detect racism and sexism in a book, the child can

proceed to transfer the perception to wider areas. The following ten

guidelines are offered as a starting point in evaluation of children’s books

from this perspective.

1. Check the Illustrations

Look for Stereotypes. A stereotype is an oversimplified generalization

about a particular group, race, or sex, which usually carries derogatory

implications. Some infamous (overt) stereotypes of Blacks are the happy-go-

lucky, watermelon-eating Sambo and the fat, eye-rolling “mammy”; of

Chicanos, the sombrero-wearing peon, or the fiesta-loving, macho bandito;

of Asian Americans, the inscrutable, slant-eyed “Oriental”; of Native

Americans, the naked savage or “primitive” craftsperson and his “squaw”; of

Puerto Ricans, the switchblade-toting, teenage gang member; of women,

the completely domesticated mother, the demure, doll-loving little girl or the


wicked stepmother. While you may not always find stereotypes in the

blatant forms described, look for variations which in any way demean or

ridicule characters because of their race or sex.

Look for Tokenism. If there are minority characters in the illustrations, do

they look just like whites except for being tinted or colored in? Do all

minority faces look stereotypically alike, or are they depicted as genuine

individuals with distinctive features?

Who’s Doing What? Do the illustrations depict minorities in subservient

and passive roles or in leadership and action roles? Are males the active

“doers” and females the inactive observers?

2. Check the Story Line

The liberation movements have led publishers to weed out many insulting

passages, particularly from stories with Black themes and from books

depicting female characters; however, racist and sexist attitudes still find

expression in less obvious ways. The following checklist suggests some of

the subtle, covert forms of bias to watch for.

Standard for Success. Does it take “white” behavior standards for a

minority person to “get ahead”? Is “making it’ in the dominant white society

projected as the only ideal? To gain acceptance and approval, do third world

persons have to exhibit extraordinary qualities – excel in sports, get A’s,

etc.? In friendships between white and third world children, is it the third

world child who does most of the understanding and forgiving?


Resolution of Problems. How are problems presented, conceived, and

resolved in the story? Are minority people considered to be “the problem”?

Are the oppressions faced by minorities and women represented as casually

related to an unjust society? Are the reasons for poverty and oppression

explained, or are they accepted as inevitable? Does the story line encourage

passive acceptance or active resistance? Is a particular problem that is

faced by a minority person resolved through the benevolent intervention of a

white person?

Role of Women. Are the achievements of girls and women based on their

own initiative and intelligence, or are they due to their good looks or to their

relationship with boys? Are sex roles incidental or critical to characterization

and plot? Could the same story be told if the sex roles were reversed?

3. Look at the Lifestyles

Are third world persons and their setting depicted in such a way that they

contrast unfavorably with the unstated norm of white, middle-class

suburbia? If the minority group in question is depicted as “different,” are

negative value judgments implied? Are minorities depicted exclusively in

ghettos, barrios, or migrant camps? If the illustrations and text attempt to

depict another culture, do they go beyond over-simplifications and offer

genuine insights into another lifestyle? Look for inaccuracy and

inappropriateness in the depiction of other cultures. Watch for instances of

the “quaint-natives-in-costume” syndrome (most noticeable in areas like

clothing and custom, but extending to behavior and personality traits as


4. Weigh the Relationships Between People


Do the whites in the story possess the power, take the leadership, and make

the important decisions? Do minorities and females function in essentially

supporting, subservient roles?

How are family relationships depicted? In Black families, is the mother

always dominant? In Latino families, are there always lots of children? If

the family is separated, are societal conditions -unemployment, poverty-

cited among the reasons for the separation?

5. Note the Heroes

For many years, books showed only “safe” minority heroes-those who

avoided serious conflict with the white establishment of their time. Minority

groups today are insisting on the right to define their own heroes (of both

sexes) based on their own concepts and struggles for justice.

When minority heroes do appear, are they admired for the same qualities

that have made white heroes famous or because what they have done has

benefited white people? Ask this question: “Whose interests is a particular

hero really serving?” The interests of the hero’s own people? Or the

interests of white people?

6. Consider the Effects on a Child’s Self-image

Are norms established which limit any child’s aspirations and self-concepts?

What effect can it have on third world children to be continuously

bombarded with images of the color white as the ultimate in beauty,

cleanliness, virtue, etc., and the color black as evil, dirty, menacing, etc.?


Does the book reinforce or counteract positive associations with the color

white and negative associations with the color black?

What happens to a girl’s self-image when she reads that boys perform all of

the brave and important deeds? What about a girl’s self-esteem if she is not

“fair” of skin and slim of body?

In a particular story, is them one or more persons with whom a minority

child can readily identify to a positive and constructive end?

7. Consider the Author’s or Illustrator’s Background

Analyze the biographical material on the jacket flap or the back of the book.

If a story deals with a minority theme, what qualifies the author or illustrator

to deal with the subject? If the author and illustrator are not members of

the minority being written about, is there anything in their background that

would specifically recommend them as the creators of this book?

8. Check Out the Author’s Perspective

No author can be entirely objective. All authors write from a cultural as well

as from a personal context. Children’s books in the past have traditionally

come from authors who were white and who were members of the middle

class, with one result being that a single ethnocentric perspective has

dominated children’s literature in the United States. With any book in

question, read carefully to determine whether the direction of the author’s

perspective substantially weakens or strengthens the value of his/her written

work. Is the perspective patriarchal or feminist? Is it solely Eurocentric or

do third world perspectives also surface?


9. Watch for Loaded Words

A word is loaded when it has offensive overtones. Examples of loaded

adjectives (usually racist) are “savage,” “primitive,” “conniving,” “lazy,”

“superstitious,” “treacherous,” “wily,” “crafty,” “inscrutable,” “docile,” and


Look for sexist language and adjectives that exclude or in any way demean

girls or women. Look for use of the male pronoun to refer to both males and

females. While the generic use of the word “man” was accepted in the past,

its use today is outmoded. The following examples show how sexist

language can be avoided: ancestors instead of forefathers; chairperson

instead of chairman; community instead of brotherhood; fire fighters instead

of firemen; manufactured instead of manmade; human family instead of

family of man.

10. Look at the Copyright Date

Books on minority themes-usually hastily conceived-suddenly began

appearing in the mid and late 1960’s. There followed a growing number of

“minority experience” books to meet the new market demand, but these

books were still written by white authors, edited by white editors, and

published by white publishers. They therefore reflected a white point of

view. Not until the early 1970’s did the children’s book world begin to even

remotely reflect the realities of a pluralistic society. The new direction

resulted from the emergence of third world authors writing about their own

experiences in an oppressive society. This promising direction has been


reversing in the late 1970’s. Non-sexist books, with rare exceptions, were

not published before 1972 to 1974.

The copyright dates, therefore, can be a clue as to how likely the book is to

be overtly racist or sexist, although a recent copyright date, of course, is no

guarantee of a book’s relevance or sensitivity. The copyright date only

means the year the book was published. It usually takes two years-and

often much more than that-from the time a manuscript is submitted to the

publisher to the time it is actually printed and put on the market. This time

lag meant very little in the past, but in a period of rapid change and new

consciousness, when children’s book publishing is attempting to be

“relevant,” it is becoming increasingly significant.

*Reprinted by the Early Childhood Equity Alliance with permission from the author*

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