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Selected Development Project
Project Title Construction of Gender in Primary Literacy Resources: A Study of Readers for Hong Kong Early Learners


Principal Investigator Dr Jackie Lee Fung-king
Area of Research Project
Teaching and Learning
Project Period
From 1/1/2018 To 30/06/2020
  1. To investigate gender representation, gender relations and power in children’s readers in terms of salient linguistic features such as lexical items and syntactic construction;
  2. To explore gender representation in English readers from a multimodal perspective by taking into account the inter-relationship between text and associated images and figures; and
  3. To examine gender representation in English readers in terms of the content chosen.
Methods Used

The data came from the following three main sources:

  1. Primary Literacy Programme – Reading and Writing (Key Stage 1)
  2. Reading to Learn across the Curriculum Book List for Key Stage 1
  3. Readers published by popular publishers for the local market

The investigation included at least 60 books from each of the three categories. The content analysis included both verbal and visual analyses. In order to examine how language functions in sustaining and eliminating gender inequalities, and in maintaining and changing power relations between men and women following the critical discourse analysis approach, the study examined how the experiential, relational and expressive values were demonstrated through the formal features and visual images. Experiential value covers contents; relational value covers relations and social relationships; and expressive value covers the writer’s evaluation, subjects and social identities.

Summary of Findings
  1. Gender inequalities and biases are perpetuated in children’s books.
  2. Female characters, especially female animal characters, are under-represented.
  3. Females are frequently confined to the home and a limited range of social roles.
  4. In earlier books, females are often associated with relational processes; males with material. In some more recent books, males are disproportionately dominant in verbal and mental processes.
  5. Male characters seem to be accorded more respect than female characters through male firstness and use of more formal address terms.
  6. Although numerical gender balance is evident in contemporary children’s books, latent gender inequality still exists. For example, males are more likely to be suppressed or backgrounded in family activities, and have more sole appearances than females.
  1. In the pedagogical domain, the study helps teachers, learners and parents read a text more critically. It provides information about the images and language used by writers to construct gender (in)equality. The findings may be used to urge the government, publishers and educational professionals concerned to initiate changes in mainstream publications for provision of more equal learning environments.
  2. In the attitudinal domain, it exposes and addresses social inequality, and contributes to public awareness of the importance of reducing gender bias in thought and behaviour.
Selected Output
  1. Lee, J. F. K. (to appear). Gender portrayal in a popular Hong Kong reading scheme for children: Are there equalities? Journal of Research in Childhood Education.
  2. Lee, J. F. K., & Chin, A. C. O. (2019). Are females and males equitably represented? – A study of early readers. Linguistics and Education, 49, 52–61.
  3. Lee, J. F. K. & Chin, C. O. (2019). Gender positioning in children’s books – A visual analysis. Paper presented at The European Conference on Language Learning. London. 19-21 July 2019.
  4. Lee, J. F. K. & Chin, C. O. (2019). The Primary Literacy Programme – Are females and males created equally? Paper presented at The 17th Asia TEFL International Conference and The 6th FLLT International Conference. Bangkok. 27-29 June 2019.
  5. Lee, J. F. K. & Chin, C. O. (2018). Construction of gender in primary literacy resources – A Hong Kong case. Paper presented at The 10th Malaysia International Conference on Languages, Literatures and Cultures (MICOLLC). Malacca. 14-16 August 2018.
  6. Lee, J. F. K. & Chin, C. O. (2018). Gender representation in early readers – Are women and men equal? Paper presented at The 53rd RELC International Conference. Singapore. 12-14 March 2018.
Biography of Principal Investigator

Dr Jackie LEE Fung King is an Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Modern Language Studies at The Education University of Hong Kong. Dr Lee has extensive experience in the planning, implementation and evaluation of English courses in the tertiary sector. She teaches various language system courses to undergraduate and postgraduate students. Her active engagement in research projects has contributed to her numerous quality publications in leading international journals such as World Englishes, Sex Roles, Gender and Education, and Teaching and Teacher Education. The research interests of Dr Lee include language and gender, English grammar, English language teaching, and experiential learning education.

Funding Source

General Research Fund