Character portrayal, Newbery Award, Characters with disabilities


Newbery awards are conferred annually on books recognized as having made the most distinguished contribution to children’s literature; these books reach a wide audience, and their depictions of characters with disabilities can influence children's perceptions and attitudes toward individuals with disabilities. Eight Newbery Medal and Honor books chosen from 2010 to 2019 were identified as portraying 11 main or supporting characters with a disability. Six disabilities were represented: emotional disturbance, deafness, specific learning disability, speech/language impairment, orthopedic impairment, and traumatic brain injury. Applying the Rating Scale for Quality Characterizations of Individuals with Disabilities in Children’s Literature, we found most of the characterizations positive in personal portrayal, social interactions, and sibling relationships. Exemplary practices were also found in these books. We encourage school professionals to select books carefully to share with their students.

Original Publication Citation

Grow, H., Black, S., Egan, K., Taylor, T. M., Moss, K., Wadham, R., & Prater, M. A. (2019). A decade of disability depictions in Newbery Award books. DADD Online Journal: Research to Practice, 6(1), 58-71.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Council for Exceptional Children – Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities




David O. McKay School of Education


Counseling Psychology and Special Education

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor