Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Heydon, Rachel


Gender-based ideologies permeate everyday spaces and materials, including children’s literature. This study explores and compares gender representation in Canadian authored fiction nominees for the prestigious Silver Birch award from 2009 and 2019 (OLA, 2019). Using methodological tools from critical discourse study (Fairclough, 2013; Wodak & Meyer, 2016) and ethnographic content analysis (ECA; Altheide, 1987; 2004) with queer theory (Blaise & Taylor, 2012) as a theoretical lens, this study analyzed ten Silver Birch (OLA, 2019) fiction nominee novels from 2009 and ten from 2019. Depictions of gender within the books are assessed through character descriptions, contexts the characters are in, and language used by and between characters. Findings determine a shift to more equal representations in terms of the number of girls and boys as lead or title characters in the 2019 texts. Additionally, the 2019 texts demonstrate a change as girl characters are more active and involved in stories, and boys crossing the gender line. Despite positive shifts, heteronormative gender roles remain prevalent and plentiful.

Summary for Lay Audience

This study explores representations of gender in children’s literature, with a specific focus on the Silver Birch nominated books from 2009 and 2019. The Silver Birch books are early novels marketed for children between grades 3 and 6. This study uses a document analysis approach and pays particular attention to the language used by the authors and character situations to assess gender representations within the selected Silver Birch books. Findings suggest some changes between the 2009 and 2019 texts with girls growing in representation as a lead or title character, and they are also more active and involved in stories in the 2019 books. Additionally, depictions of boys show them crossing the gender line more often and practicing more stereotypically feminine behaviours such as expressing emotions openly. Despite shifts, conventional western gender roles and norms do remain prevalent.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.