Reading into Racism: Bias in Children's Literature and Learning Materials

By Gillian Klein | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

Oh, but you’re different

The forms that bias in children’s books may take are as numerous and as various as the books themselves. This chapter does not attempt to analyse all these forms, nor even all the forms in which racism manifests itself.

A typology of racism in books does exist; it can be found in The Slant of the Pen (1980). Jorg Becker has identified seven patterns of argumentation by authors which will, alone or in combination, result in racist books.

Here we consider chiefly two of the most widespread forms of bias, generally described by the terms omission and stereotyping; some of the many other forms will most usefully be considered in the context of books on specific themes or subjects. But because they go across all media communications and because the terms have developed their own meanings for the campaigners against them, it seems advisable to examine omissions and stereotyping in some detail. When we then apply the terms to story books and curriculum materials we will be using them in a tightly defined way.


Omission

‘Omission’ is self-defining. The most dangerous aspect of omission is that books may very effectively conceal what is left out of them, or even that anything has been left out.

Most authors write with considerable conviction, carrying their readers with them. It takes some time before one can learn to step back, pause, and reflect ‘Something is missing here’. Authors and editors determine what will be dealt with in any given book; if the reader cannot find what she wants there, she will be advised to seek

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