Commonly practiced in school settings, bibliotherapy promotes healing and problem solving. In schools, bibliotherapy should be utilized to educate and empower students and to enhance the classroom experience. In order to achieve this purpose, teachers need a variety of books to specifically target students' unique needs. Award-winning books, such as those receiving the prestigious Newbery Medal, are important resources for teachers. This study examined the portrayal of characters with disabilities in 249 Newbery Medal and Honor books published between 1922 and 1974. From this sample, 20 books featured a combined total of 21 characters with a disability, as defined by the 13 disability categories (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA). The majority of characters were portrayed with orthopedic impairment (43%; n = 9). Other disabilities represented in this sample of books included visual impairment (19%; n = 4); emotional disturbance (14%; n = 3); mental retardation (9%; n = 2); speech or language impairment (5%; n = 1); multiple disabilities (5%; n = 1); and other health impairment (5%; n = 1). Overall, according to the language and customs of the time period that reflected the settings of the books, characters with disabilities were sensitively portrayed. However, when judged by today's standards, these portrayals were considered insensitive.
College and Department
David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Pehrson, Casey Lin, "Portrayal of Characters with Disabilities in Newbery Books" (2011). Theses and Dissertations. 2821.
bibliotherapy, disability, Newbery Medal, content analysis, children's literature