Exploring the use of children's literature to affect the gender role expectations of fifth-grade students

Rachael A. Flynn

Abstract

This multiple instrumental case study explored and described fifth-grade students' attitudes and perceptions toward gender roles and expectations after reading and participating in discussions of children's literature portraying females and males in diverse, nontraditional roles. Specifically, the researcher sought to explore and describe attitudes and perceptions of two fifth-grade girls and two fifth-grade boys toward gender roles and expectations, describe the changes in attitudes and perceptions toward gender equity issues over the course of the study, and finally describe how literature circles and art reflection activities reveal changes in these attitudes and perceptions. This research found that quality children's literature portraying females and males in nontraditional roles accompanied with literature related activities involving whole and small group literature discussions, along with writing and art opportunities positively impacted the attitudes and perceptions of participants in reference to gender equity issues. Furthermore, art reflection activities, literature circles, and writing opportunities provided outlets for reflection, questioning, and self-expression that contributed to the growth of gender equitable attitudes and perceptions. Finally, this study concludes that the use of children's literature portraying characters in diverse, nontraditional roles accompanied by literature related activities is a viable means of positively impacting the gender attitudes and perceptions of fifth-grade students.