Exploring Diversity Representation in Literature for Children: A Content Analysis of the 2015-16 Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List
Lee, Elizabeth L.
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Each year the Texas Bluebonnet Award Program publishes the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List (TBAML). The TBAML is a list of 20 trade books from which eligible students vote for their favorite book to be considered for the award. Today trade books supplement lessons, workbooks, textbooks, and stock school and classroom libraries. They are increasingly being used in conjunction with all subjects. Culturally relevant books have been shown to improve literacy rates and connect students to the curriculum, which makes it important for students to be represented in the books they read. The purpose of this study was to examine the 20 books on the 2015-16 TBAML to determine if the demographic diversity of the main characters reflected the demographic diversity of Texas students in grades 3-6 in terms of disability, family structure, gender, grade level, race, and socio-economic status. The researcher used content analysis to collect demographic data about the main characters in the books on the TBAML. The researcher collected data from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the United States Census Bureau concerning the demographics of Texas students. The researcher compared the data collected from the books to the data collected from the TEA and the United States Census Bureau in order to determine whether the demographic diversity of the targeted readers was represented by the TBAML. The results of this study indicated that of the six categorical variables examined, race and socio-economic status were the most underrepresented followed by family structure and disability. Grade level and gender were sufficiently represented. Diversity representation influences readers and should be an important factor in determining the content of children’s literature and its associated awards. The TBAML book selection committee should ensure that all Texas students are proportionately represented by the characters in the TBAML books.