In this unit, we learned that parents, families, school systems and media all influence us when we are learning to be who we ought to be. Before we studied socialization, we learned about how values and norms are passed down to us through culture, our inherited system of values and norms.
Children’s books touch on culture and each agent of socialization. Our families, teachers, and peers expose us to media, through which we learn cultural messages. In this assignment, you’re going to analyze a children’s book sociologically. You’ll look for values, norms, and cultural messages that are passed along to children through the book.
Please use the rubric to understand specifically how you will be evaluated for this assignment.
Step 1: Find a children’s picture book
Some of you may live in homes with children’s books! Feel free to select one of these books to analyze. If that doesn’t describe you, one of the easiest ways to access children’s books online is through YouTube videos of books read
aloud. You can simply search “children’s books read aloud” on YouTube to browse options.
It can also be fun to analyze a book that you read as a child, so if you have one in mind, you could try searching for a specific title.
Here’s another resource to find kids’ books online Read Aloud Books via St. Lucie Reads (opens in new window) at https://www.cscslc.org/272/Read-Aloud-Book-Videos-for-Kids-on-YouTu
I will say that while you can choose any book you want, books with several people in it, or multiple characters (human or otherwise) will be easier than a book like “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” which is a one caterpillar show.
If you’re really motivated to get out of the house, your local library will have plenty of children’s books to choose from too, and you could also observe the space and the material culture as a sociological observer.
Step 2: Analyze your book
Read and analyze your book as a sociologist, not just a reader. Consider messages about values, norms, good vs. bad, gender, race, religion etc. You may want to review the PDF on American cultural values and read your analysis questions before you read your book, taking detailed notes. I also recommend reading the book more than once to see if you have additional observations.
Step 3: Write up your analysis using the questions below
- For this assignment you should answer all 10 questions. For each question you should (1) identify your observations (2) provide specific examples of your observations and (3) connect these observations and examples as best you can to US culture and socialization
- Assignment will be graded using the Children’s Book Analysis Assignment Rubric
- These questions can be answered in short answer or essay form in 2-3 double spaced pages.
- Please note that this is not an assignment to summarize a children’s book, but to analyze it. Summary should be short and serve to clarify your analysis.
- What is the title of your book? The author? What year was it published?
- Why is the year published important to note when it comes to using our sociological imagination and observing cultural values?
- What is your summary of this book? (Reminder: this should be a couple of sentences and is not the focus of this assignment.)
- What overall messages or themes did you observe?
- What American cultural values are portrayed in the book? (See PDF of US values as discussed in class)
- What social norms are portrayed in this book? What is seen as good vs. bad, right vs. wrong?
How does this book reinforce how we are supposed to “do” day-to-day life?
- Investigate the people or characters in this book. What do you notice about race, gender, disability status, religion, age, family status? Who is represented? Who is missing? What does this tell us about the influence of the dominant culture? You may also choose to discuss the statuses of the author and illustrator here, too.
- Investigate any gendered messaging in this book. Who gets to be the main character? The supporting character? the hero? Who does which jobs? Can you observe any differences in how male or female characters are portrayed? How pronouns are used to communicate gender norms, if at all? (Ex: Are all the trucks “he”? Is the only “she” truck bright pink? Did the author
choose to use “they/them”?) Do you think this book reinforces or challenges existing norms about gender in the society?
- We all know one children’s book isn’t enough to create a world view. However, we also know that media is an important part of culture. How do parents have influence over the type of media, like books, that children consume? How might the messages a child reads in this book, and the similar messages they receive from peers, school, and family, might translate to adult values & norms about how to behave?
- How do the messages in this book align with or challenge cultural values that are important in US society? What is the potential long-term impact of books that maintain the status quo or that challenge existing values?
Please upload a file. Thanks.
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