In Writing

Why we need more lead female characters in children’s books

The Ugly Truth of Children's Books

If you have a daughter, you need to see this.

Posted by Rebel Girls on Monday, 6 March 2017

The authors behind ‘Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls’ present some alarming statistics in ‘The Ugly Truth of Children’s books’ video, that has unsurprisingly gone viral.

  • Male characters appear in up to 100% of books (FSU study finds 100 years of gender bias in children’s books, 2011).
  • In a study of over 5ooo children’s books, 25% of them had zero female characters (Gender in 20th Century Children’s books, 2011).
  • Time Magazine listed the 100 best children’s books of all time. Only 53 had females that speak.
  • Across children’s media, only 19.5% of female characters hold jobs or have career aspirations vs. 80.5% of male characters (SeeJane.org Occupational Aspirations, 2013).

Read more about Rebel girls and ‘Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls’ on their website.

These statistics are alarming, and it’s great to see there are more and more authors avoiding gender stereotypes and writing books with strong female leads. We need more books about space, dinosaurs, sport, and any other subject that is overwhelmingly targeted at boys, to be written with lead female characters. And while we’re at it, more books with lead male characters who love pink, dancing, music, cooking and singing.

This is something I feel passionately about and informs my writing and story development. I hope to be part of the change.

I recently read a more encouraging article in the Guardian, ‘Books for girls, about girls: the publishers trying to balance the bookshelves’, on the state of gender diversity in the children’s book world. One of the opinions they shared was that there’s no lack of great books with girls as central characters, the challenge is finding them. I’m hoping to do my bit to help people find these books. Search by theme tag, strong female lead or stereotype-busters, for picture books I’ve featured where the main character has a strong female voice.

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