Issues of representation in award-winning children's literature: Texas Bluebonnet Award, 1981-2002



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Texas Tech University


Wolcott (1992) maintains that investigations can be driven by ideas, theories, concepts, procedures, or the desire for reform. I find myself drawn to reform-driven research because when "coupled with the act of inquiry [there] is an underlying (and presumably conscious) assumption on the part of the researcher that things are not right as they are or, most certainly, are not as good as they might be" (p. 15). Knowing, from my experience as a classroom teacher, that all students are not represented in children's literature, I felt that an in-depth investigation of that phenomenon would highlight the areas that are not as good as they might be.

Because I believe that literature has the capability to offer a child the ability "to reap knowledge of the world, to fathom the resources of human spirit, to gain insights that will make his own life comprehensible" (Rosenblatt, 1976, p. 7), I felt it imperative that I understand more fully the ways in which award winning children's literature does not participate in "the struggle to recognize the multiplicity of voices and the diversity of histories and experiences of those who inhabit our nation and world" (Shapiro, 1995, p. 236).

With this study, I wanted to investigate the ypes of representation presented in award-winning children's literature, particularly, the Texas Bluebonnet Award (TBA). I wanted to gain an understanding of the value society places on literature about children outside the socio-political mainstream, and the ways in which children's literature portrays or does not portray all kinds of children. Through this investigation, I also wanted to discover what the people who are responsible for choosing the Texas Bluebonnet nominated books thought of their role in the process. Essentially, the intention of this study was two-fold. I wanted to investigate the types of representation presented in awardwinning children's literature and to gain insight into the minds of the selection committees who determine which books become winners.