Graduate Research Papers


Open Access Graduate Research Paper


The purpose of this study was to determine how fully characters with disabilities were developed in children's literature. The researcher examined a set of children's fictional books which contained persons with mental and physical disabilities. The sample of books used was gathered using the following method: the Children's Core Collection database was searched using the advanced option. The key words entered were handicapped and disabled, with the limitation to fiction books. The recommendation level chosen was Core Collection and Highly Recommended. Books with a publication year of 2002 or newer were selected. The grade levels criteria used were grades K-6. Twenty-three books met the criteria.

A qualitative content analysis was used to analyze the portrayal of characters with disabilities. Eighteen of the books portrayed the characters with disabilities both positively and negatively. The connection between the positive and negative portrayal was often due to the character with the disability overcoming an obstacle and believing in him/herself. Many people face various struggles and successes throughout their lives, making this connection with the character allow the reader to understand how they are similar and different to the character with the disability. Though 5 of 23 books reviewed provided multi-dimensional characters, 18 of 23 books brought the characters with disabilities to life for the reader. The understanding of a character with a disability interaction with others, surroundings, and actions provided the researcher with a realistic portrayal of a character with a disability. Additional author's notes and appendices provided even more background knowledge to help the researcher make a connection with the character with the disability.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Curriculum and Instruction


Division of School Library Studies

First Advisor

Karla Krueger


If you are the rightful copyright holder of this graduate research paper and wish to have it removed from the Open Access Collection, please submit an email request to Include your name and clearly identify the thesis by full title and author as shown on the work.

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (i, 40 pages)