Posted in Miscellany

6000 kid’s books over 100 years: where are the girls?

The study also found that:

  • Males are central characters in 57 percent of children’s books published per year, while only 31 percent have female central characters.
  • No more than 33 percent of children’s books published in any given year contain central characters that are adult women or female animals, but adult men and male animals appear in up to 100 percent of books.
  • Male animals are central characters in more than 23 percent of books per year, while female animals are in only 7.5 percent.
  • On average, 36.5 percent of books in each year studied include a male in the title, compared to 17.5 percent that include a female.
  • Although books published in the 1990s came close to parity for human characters (with a ratio of 0.9:1 for child characters; 1.2:1 for adult characters), a significant disparity of nearly 2 to 1 remains for male animal characters versus female.

This comes as no surprise to me, though it’s still sad to see the numbers crunched. I’ve noticed this about kids’ books. Publishers’ wisdom: girls will read books featuring boys, but boys won’t–so go heavy on the boys and throw in a girl now and then. Something’s got to change.



Lilian is the author of Web of Angels, a novel about a mom with DID (multiple personalities). She's also the author of the historical novels, The River Midnight and The Singing Fire, about secrets, friendship and motherhood in 19th century Poland and London.

7 thoughts on “6000 kid’s books over 100 years: where are the girls?

  1. This is so sad to me. One of our local bookshops hosted a wonderful event last year, for which they selected twenty or so children’s books which were not gender-skewed or which addressed issues of gender inequality. My mother-in-law bought half of them for my daughter in one great big lot. Here’s hoping the world will begin to change.

  2. I really don’t buy the notion that boys don’t read books featuring girls–my son loves Dora to bits, but then he’s a preschooler who hasn’t faced peer ridicule yet. These statistics are so depressing/maddening.
    Incidentally, the upcoming essay on WDLT this week is by a children’s author who debunks that bit of publisher wisdom.

  3. Ugh, just like kids’ shows it seems.

    I think this ties into one of your posts from last week, where you wonder what makes a writer successful, quite well. Your books The Singing Fire and The River Midnight both have good, central female characters that are reflective of girls’ and women’s perspectives in the world.

    We live in a culture that inundates us with the message that being a boy or a man is the “default” human experience, and I’m just honestly burnt out on that message. So, seeing girls and women in central roles is important to me, and a large part of why I appreciate both of your books. 🙂

    1. Those, too, Fannie and thanks for the compliment. I think you’ll like my new one too. It should be out in Canada early next year. And sometime not too long after that, I hope, in the U.S. and other countries.

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