“Zebra world”: The promotion of imperial stereotypes in a children’s book

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Learning materials have become significant determinants of quality learning environments for young children. This study presents an example of such learning material in the Finnish context – a children’s book entitled: Bibi muuttaa Suomeen (translated: Bibi Moves to Finland) by Katja Kallio and Maggie Lindholm (2005). The main concern of this article is how the ‘us’ and ‘them’ (Finland vs. Africa) meet or co-exist together in the book, which describes a young girl, Bibi, her life in a ‘traditional’ African village and subsequent move to Finland. The positive intention of the book is to familiarize Finnish children with different cultures and the life of immigrant children. In this study concepts such as ‘Whiteness’, normality and belonging are discussed within a critical approach to intercultural education. The data consist of a focus group interview conducted for student teachers and our own analysis as two experts in the book. The material was analysed with the help of critical discourse analysis and a critical incident approach. The results show that despite good intentions to educate children about immigration and other people in a morepositive light, the book serves to maintain the social structure of Finnish society as White,modern and superior to ‘others’ in Africa. It is important that teachers and teacher educators are able to challenge this type of representation of the world and of immigration in children’s books and learning materials.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)181–195
JournalPower and Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Intercultural education
  • stereotypes
  • ‘othering’
  • racism

Cite this