Taylor Berry ’17, an early childhood education graduate, has begun her new teaching career as a published author. She and Dr. Julia Wilkins, assistant professor of education, co-authored an article entitled, “The Gendered Portrayal of Inanimate Characters in Children’s Books” which is the lead article in the fall issue of the Journal of Children’s Literature. The Journal of Children’s Literature is a peer-reviewed journal produced by The Children’s Literature Assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English. Wilkins commented, “Getting published in such a prestigious journal as an undergraduate student is extremely impressive and is an extremely rare accomplishment.”
Berry started working on her research during her education capstone class in her junior year. After the class finished, Wilkins and Berry collaborated to develop the paper into a publishable article. They visited several libraries, Barnes and Noble, and reviewed books on Amazon to search for books with anthropomorphized inanimate main characters. They reviewed 103 books for their article and found that there were 4.75 times as many books featuring male main characters as female main characters. They also found that the most common character form for male characters was “cars and trucks,” but there were no books in which the main characters were female cars or trucks. While male characters were frequently presented as active, brave, and adventurous, the majority of female characters were portrayed as passive, insecure, and emotional.
Of particular concern was the fact that male characters were frequently shown as capable leaders on whom others relied, but none of the female characters in the books they reviewed were presented as having leadership qualities. Berry and Wilkins caution teachers against using books in which female characters lack leadership qualities as it denies girls the opportunity to see positive models to emulate. Another significant finding was that almost half of the female characters were shown without faces compared to only 4% of male characters. They state in their article, “The lack of a face depersonalizes female characters, making it difficult for young readers to relate to or empathize with them.”
The journal reviewers commented that “the manuscript provides new insights into gendered portrayals in children’s books, and the focus on inanimate objects is unique.”
Berry is a 2nd-grade teacher at Roebuck Elementary School in Spartanburg District 6. While at PC, Berry tutored children at the Thornwell Home for Children in Clinton. She was in Kappa Delta Pi, an International Honor Society in Education, where she held the position of secretary. She was also in the Eta Xi Chapter of Alpha Delta Pi.