Newbery award, literature, representation


Newbery books represent quality literature that has a profound social-emotional impact on its readers, yet these books have not been systematically evaluated for their portrayal of characters with disabilities. Thirty-one Newbery Award and Honor books from 1975–2009 were identified and portrayed 41 main or supporting characters with disabilities. These books were evaluated using the Rating Scale for Quality Characterizations of Individuals with Disabilities in Children’s Literature. Results indicate the representation of Newbery characters with disabilities is not proportionate to the current U.S. population of students with disabilities. Further, racial representation portrayed in these books is not representative of the diverse students receiving special education services. Trend analyses indicate that overall the portrayal of characters with disabilities is increasingly positive. School personnel are encouraged to select appropriate books for their instructional or bibliotherapeutic purposes. Authors are encouraged to include dynamic, exemplary, and memorable characters who are representative of today’s school population of students with disabilities.

Original Publication Citation

Leininger, M., Dyches, T. T., Prater, M. A., & Heath, M. A. (2010). Newbery award winning books 1975–2009: How do they portray disabilities? Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 45(4), 583-596.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities





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