A gender-based analysis of Hong Kong children’s literature in English

Kathleen AHRENS, Marija TODOROVA, Fung King Jackie LEE

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Literature can provide children with cultural information about the society they live in by allowing them to identify themselves on the pages of a book, and to know they are understood and valued. However, studies of children’s literature in many countries have shown that the number of female characters is lower than male characters, and when they do occur, they tend to be is supporting roles and are stereotypically depicted in terms of their physical beauty with a limited scope in their societal roles (Drolett Creany 1995, Baker-Sperry and Grauerholz 2003, Todorova 2010). No research has been done on this area in Hong Kong for Anglophone literature, although an increasing number of authors from Hong Kong have published books in English using the city as a setting, and as their inspiration, portraying the realities of Hong Kong everyday life for children readers.

Thus, this paper seeks to fill this research gap by interrogating female representations in Hong Kong’s culture and everyday life in 50 children’s books for ages 3 to 10, written and published in English language in Hong Kong after the handover of 1997, by applying multimodal discourse analysis of the text and illustrations. We address the following research questions: What is the distribution of male and female characters? What is their level of agency (based on visual and verbal information)? What is the extent to which female characters are represented performing behaviours stereotypical for their gender? Lastly, which texts could be used to engage students in an exploration of gender equality within the English language classroom?

We hope that this study will shed further light on the interaction between expectation and portrayal of girls’ and women’s roles in Hong Kong and provide discursive strategies for teachers to address these issues in their language classrooms. Copyright © 2020 International Conference on Gender, Language and Education.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020
EventInternational Conference on Gender, Language and Education (ICGLE) - , Hong Kong
Duration: 02 Dec 202004 Dec 2020


ConferenceInternational Conference on Gender, Language and Education (ICGLE)
Abbreviated titleICGLE
Country/TerritoryHong Kong
Internet address


Ahrens, K., Todorova, M., & Lee, J. F. K. (2020, December). A gender-based analysis of Hong Kong children’s literature in English. Paper presented at International Conference on Gender, Language and Education (ICGLE), The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.


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