Examining Ruthie’s Books
Posted on March 4, 2013
The other day, I participated in a conversation about what sort of things we’d like to see more prevalent in children’s books.
I wish I could have formed some better opinions, but honestly I don’t feel very in the loop when it comes to kids’ books. Ruthie’s collection is a mish-mash of my old books, hand-me-downs from friends, rummage sale finds, gifts from grandparents, and the occasional special book that Chalupa and I buy her for Christmas, her birthday, or some special occasion.
I am not someone who goes out and buys current popular books, and right now I don’t even have a library card, as we live in the country.
So in the interest of looking into what kind of books Ruthie is exposed to, I decided to do some sorting. While she was napping, I gathered up as many of her books as I could find, certainly missing a few here and there, and sorted them into different piles. I looked very generally at the breakdown of books about boys and girls, whether or not her books represent fathers and mothers, and whether or not she has books that represent diversity. The results of this survey of her books is not devastating, but it is disheartening. I’m going to need to intentionally seek out some more variety in what she reads. We spend so much time reading in our house that this seems like an important thing to be aware of.
I am especially interested in the fact that of the books featuring girls as main characters, almost half of them culminate in a wedding. (Thanks, Disney princesses, for that one.) Of the books about people, there is a miniscule number of books about anything other than white people. If you were only judging from Ruthie’s library, you’d think the world was pretty much entirely white. The only reason the stack of books about people of color is even as big as it is comes from the fact that my childhood collection of Native American biographies is included. I’m also a bit surprised that of all the books Ruthie has, not a single one of them features any sets of same-sex parents.
Here is a gallery of the results. I initially sorted the books into story books vs. other activity books, and then did the rest of the analysis based on those that were narrative.