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Representations of the veterinary profession in nonfiction children's books

Sandra F. Amass DVM, PhD, DABVP1
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  • 1 Departments of Veterinary Clinical Sciences and Veterinary Administration, School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907.

Abstract

Objective—To evaluate how the veterinary profession is represented in nonfiction children's books and determine whether representations reflect the current veterinary profession or the demographics of the United States.

Design—Survey.

Sample—Covers of 46 nonfiction children's books and contents of 45 nonfiction children's books.

Procedures—Book covers and book contents (images and text) were evaluated for representations of veterinarians and to identify settings, clients, technology and equipment, and animals portrayed. Book contents were additionally evaluated to identify specialties and career opportunities specifically mentioned in the text.

Results—Book covers predominantly portrayed veterinarians as Caucasian women who wore examination coats, worked alone in veterinary clinics, and cared for dogs without a client present. Book contents predominantly portrayed veterinarians as a Caucasian man or woman who wore an examination coat, worked as part of a team in a veterinary clinic, and helped clients care for dogs, cats, and exotic animals. Specialties and career opportunities in the veterinary profession were mentioned in the text of 29 of 45 (64.4%) books.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Nonfiction children's book covers that focused on the veterinary profession portrayed a greater percentage of women than is currently found in the profession. Similarly, books portrayed a greater percentage of Caucasians than in the current or predicted US population. With the exception of Asians, books collectively represented lower or similar percentages of underrepresented minorities, compared with the US population. Veterinarians are encouraged to select books for individual children that portray veterinarians with whom the children can identify.

Abstract

Objective—To evaluate how the veterinary profession is represented in nonfiction children's books and determine whether representations reflect the current veterinary profession or the demographics of the United States.

Design—Survey.

Sample—Covers of 46 nonfiction children's books and contents of 45 nonfiction children's books.

Procedures—Book covers and book contents (images and text) were evaluated for representations of veterinarians and to identify settings, clients, technology and equipment, and animals portrayed. Book contents were additionally evaluated to identify specialties and career opportunities specifically mentioned in the text.

Results—Book covers predominantly portrayed veterinarians as Caucasian women who wore examination coats, worked alone in veterinary clinics, and cared for dogs without a client present. Book contents predominantly portrayed veterinarians as a Caucasian man or woman who wore an examination coat, worked as part of a team in a veterinary clinic, and helped clients care for dogs, cats, and exotic animals. Specialties and career opportunities in the veterinary profession were mentioned in the text of 29 of 45 (64.4%) books.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Nonfiction children's book covers that focused on the veterinary profession portrayed a greater percentage of women than is currently found in the profession. Similarly, books portrayed a greater percentage of Caucasians than in the current or predicted US population. With the exception of Asians, books collectively represented lower or similar percentages of underrepresented minorities, compared with the US population. Veterinarians are encouraged to select books for individual children that portray veterinarians with whom the children can identify.

Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to Dr. Amass (amasss@purdue.edu).