Honors Research Day 2020: Stephanie Biase
Please introduce yourself.
“My name is Stephanie Biase and I am a literature/QUEST major in elementary education and dual certified in special education on the Florham Campus.”
What is the title of your project? What is it all about?
“My project is ‘Giving Girls a Voice: The Evolution of Girlhood in Children’s Literature.’ My research looks at eight books, across four categories of children’s literature — domestic, detective, adventure, and activist. Across the research, I analyze and explore how girl protagonists are portrayed and placed on a spectrum of polarized concepts that range from girly-girls to tomboys. This placement on the continuum is influenced by various enforcers of gendered norms, expectations, and behaviors, as well as, those who challenge these notions, and this includes the family structure. Across the tomboy literature, there is a common motif of the absent mother and the present father to parent the girl, along with a surrogate-mothering figure to replace the absent mother. For a girl to identify as a tomboy, the mother needs to be removed from the story. The research is then applied in an education section that discusses different teaching strategies to incorporate student choice and voice into the classroom as they read diverse and authentic literature with the teacher, such as employing a balanced literacy environment, reader-response questions, and communal reading.”
Why did you choose to pursue this research? Why does it matter to you and why should it matter to others?
“Working with my mentor, professor April Patrick, helped me narrow down my ideas to the topic I have now. My research started when I went to my local library and scanned the bookshelves in the children’s literature section. Besides being the tallest one in that part of the library, I noticed that I could easily find the books for girls and the books for boys. The girl books had pastel colors on their covers, and they were soft and feminine. While, the boy books had darker colors, like blue, black, and red, to look like a superhero story, being strong and masculine. I wondered if what is on the cover influences how the girl protagonist is portrayed in her story and to the young girl readers. My overall research question guiding me through this was, ‘What does it mean to be a girl?’ This research has an important application section, tying into education, because students should have access to diverse literature. Literature should act as a window and a mirror for students to see themselves represented in, as well as learn about others who may differ from them because of culture, gender, sexual identity or orientation, or other factors. Reading diverse literature helps students become more accepting and inclusive. Teachers need to be aware of what types of books they have in the classroom to support students learning to read, and to become critical, analytical, and inclusive thinkers.”
What has the experience of completing your thesis been like?
“It has not always been easy to write this length of a paper, but it has been so much fun! My mentor, professor April Patrick, provided support throughout this yearlong process from the beginning planning stages to compiling a final draft. At times, it has been difficult to balance writing a thesis with regular classwork, homework, and other assignments. However, I am so proud of my research and my hard work to get to this point. I love my topic. I was able to tie in both my major and my desires to become a teacher by reading and analyzing books for children, while finding a way to apply this work practically in the field. I am grateful for this experience because of the amazing and supportive people I have worked with on this project. Writing the Honors thesis is a process that takes planning and organizing, but it is all worth it!”
How do you feel that the Honors program has benefited you during your FDU career, as well as moving forward? Why should new students consider joining the program?
“I love working with the Honors Program, and I have become closer to my peers during this process. Professor April Patrick and I have been in constant communication, as she has been supporting me throughout this process. Also, besides being my mentor, she makes sure to reach out to all the students completing their thesis to check in with them and offer her support. Professor Patrick truly cares about her students and the work they are completing, and she makes herself available to help in any way that she can. She provides advice and guidance by offering prep sessions to explain the process, and encourages students to attend these presentations. Also, she outlines the due dates and the steps along the way to provide structured support. The Honors Program has given me opportunities to conduct research and work with colleagues to add my voice to the field. Writing my thesis has been an amazing process and I am so proud of my research and of having my thesis published by the honors team to document my hard work. I would recommend that all students join the program to work with great staff and faculty who care and are supportive, and to have the opportunity to conduct research in something that interests you.”