Abstract

In this qualitative study, the author uses the theoretical lens of disability studies to examine how children in two multiage classrooms examine issues of disability through conversations during read-aloud and literature circle discussions. In this study, the author looks at how children build positive understandings of disability from children's literature but also how societal attitudes, beliefs, and stereotypes might play into their interpretations of literature. Student's talk before, during, and after literature discussions was audio- and videorecorded. Several themes emerged from a discourse analysis of the transcriptions, including: defining disabilities, questioning and critiquing notions of normalcy; idealizing disabilities; identifying with characters; developing an advocacy stance; and using imagination to open up perspectives towards people in the real world. Through exploring characters in books, children not only learned about various disabilities, but they came to understand characters with disabilities as full and complex beings, similar in many ways to themselves.


Students in elementary classrooms today reflect the ever-increasing diversity of culture, language, and abilities in our society; however, the diversity of students is not always addressed by instructional approaches or materials. Multicultural literature, broadly defined, includes people who have been underrepresented in stories because of race, gender, sexual preference, and disability (Galda, Sipe, Liang & Cullinan, 2013). Providing space and time for discussions about multicultural literature brings the wider perspectives of society into the classroom and allows children to create democratic communities in which to consider diversity. Through literature discussions, children's voices are heard, they are able to connect the books to their lives, and they gain multiple perspectives on complex issues such as stereotypes and prejudice.

Although there are numerous studies on how children negotiate social issues in discussions of children's literature, such as race and ethnicity (Copenhaver-Johnson, Bowman, & Johnson, 2007; Rice, 2005; Rogers & Mosley, 2010; Souto-Manning, 2009), sexual orientation (Hermann-Wilmarth, 2007), and gender (Louis, 2001; Taber & Woloshyn, 2011), the issue of disability is largely absent (Walker, Mileski, Greaves, & Patterson, 2008). This study fills a needed gap in the research and examines how children in two elementary classrooms explore issues of disability through classroom discussions of children's picture books and novels.

Disability in Children's Literature

Although there is a lack of empirical studies which show how children respond to books that feature characters with disabilities, many educational researchers have evaluated children's books for the representations of disability that appear in them (Prater, 2003). Such studies examine children's books to determine which criteria teachers should use when choosing books about disability. In the past ten years, literature for children and youth depicts increasingly positive attitudes towards people with disabilities (Prater & Dyches, 2008) and, on the whole, portrays characters with disabilities as independent, equal, and socially active (Gervay, 2004). Using quality children's literature can promote positive attitudes and teach students about individual differences (Salend, 2001). Books about disability, which teachers select to examine diversity in society, inevitably frame their students' opinions regarding disability.

Representations of disability in children's books have improved in the past decade, but stereotypes persist. A large body of children's books gives "subliminal or frankly negative messages" about the supposed nature of people with disabilities (Saunders, 2000, p. 1). Therefore, a greater awareness of how teachers and students can examine books to uncover stereotypes and negative images is needed.

Exploring Social Issues through Literature Discussions

Many research studies have shown that read-alouds in the primary grades and small-group discussions of novels in the intermediate grades in elementary schools promote a rich understanding of contemporary issues (Almasi, 1995; Barrentine, 1996; Langer, 1995; Sipe, 2008). Teaching literature about diverse paradigms and perspectives involves more than just teaching literary conventions or text genres; teaching literature that includes perspectives on social issues such as disability involves broadening students' cultural perspectives (Thein, Beach, & Parks, 2007). What is needed is to build a picture of differing abilities without simplifying and universalizing complex experiences (Lewis, 1997).

Because reading children's literature can be instrumental in changing readers' attitudes about stereotypes, it is important for educators that these changes be beneficial. Teachers and other professionals who give children books about disabilities are striving to build bridges, not reinforce prejudices (Saad, 2004). Both images in books and children's discussions mirror larger societal attitudes. In the personal sense, individuals construct new meaning as new information interacts with existing knowledge (Pantaleo, 2007). In the social sense, while knowledge is personally constructed, the constructed knowledge is "socially mediated as a result of cultural experiences and interactions with others in that culture" (McRobbie & Tobin, 1997, p. 194).

In literature discussion groups, students bring to the group existing practices—ways of talking, thinking, and acting—constituted through such conditions as gender, class, race, ethnicity, peer status, (Lewis, 1997) and disability. Although beneficial changes can occur as students examine and discuss diverse viewpoints, there exists the possibility that stereotypes about disabilities will be reinforced or reconstructed. Just as children's texts have the potential for creating change in attitudes about disability, they also have the potential for preserving and reflecting negative cultural attitudes.

Disability Studies Perspectives on Children's Literature

A disability studies perspective examines how disability is socially constructed in society and can shed light on how literature reflects the social conditions within which it was written. According to Linton (1998), definitions of disability are a matter of social debate and social construction over the causes, effects, representations, and implications of disability. Readers of books that feature characters with disabilities are able to understand and critique the books and the kinds of representations that are present in them. For example, in examining how disability is socially constructed in literature, readers might look at how disability is defined, how a disability affects the character's interactions with family and the wider community, how people with disabilities are treated, and the problems that these characters face (Adomat, 2009).

According to disability studies researchers, disability has had moral, medical, and social constructions throughout its history and within literature (Lane, 2005). A definition of disability according to a medical model is "based on the idea that to achieve normalcy, the individual must be made whole and healthy" (Solis, 2004). Children's literature written from this perspective emphasizes qualities like physical "wholeness," good looks, and high intelligence, and are valued and identified with high status individuals; whereas, the qualities of others are demeaned, stigmatized, ridiculed, feared and degraded. Children learn that people with disabilities are more different from than similar to persons without disabilities, and the consequences of such beliefs result in segregation and isolation (Solis, 2004). In interrogating texts from a disability studies perspective, students might come to understand that a disability is not fixed and dichotomous, but rather it is fluid and continuous (Lane, 2005). In this study, I am interested in looking at how children build positive understandings of disability from children's literature but also how societal attitudes, beliefs, and stereotypes might play into their interpretations of the literature.

Classroom Contexts

This qualitative study took place over a six-month period at a public elementary school of 475 students located in a small Midwestern city. I gathered data in two multiage classrooms during language arts instruction twice a week for two hours each day, a total of 40 sessions. The combined second- and third-grade class had 25 students; the combined fourth-and fifth-grade class, 27 students. (All names used in the article are pseudonyms.) Over 60% of the students qualified for free or reduced lunches, and the classroom comprised a diverse population, in terms of cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic status, and abilities. In the second-third grade class, 20% of the students spoke a language other than English in their homes; in the fourth-fifth grade class, 18% spoke another language. The languages included Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Mongolian, and Russian.

There were six students in the second-and third-grade and five students in the fourth-and fifth-grade identified for special education services, including support for learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and developmental disabilities. Each classroom had a special education teacher who worked with the students for part of the day, either within the regular classroom or in a resource room as specified in their IEPs, and each classroom had a full-time instructional aide to assist two students, one with autism and one with developmental disabilities. The school provided extra personnel to support full inclusion of students with IEPs in the general education classroom, although there were some pull-out services provided in language arts and mathematics.

Ms. Schild, the second-third grade teacher with ten years of teaching experience, and Mrs. Stone, the fourth-fifth grade teacher with 8 years of teaching experience, recognized that the children in their multiage classrooms had difficulties interacting with and respecting their classmates with autism, learning disabilities, and developmental disabilities. Each teacher thought it would be important to plan a curricular unit about disabilities that would build awareness, understanding, and tolerance of disability issues within the classroom.

Although the focus of this article is on children's discussions during whole-class read-alouds and small-group literature discussions, the topic of disability was also explored in inquiry centers, writing, art, and drama. In both classrooms, most of the 18 books used for read-aloud and small-group literature discussions were chosen from recommendations by the American Library Association (ALA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) for books that have sensitive portrayals of characters with disabilities. Some of the books won awards, such as the Schneider Family Award or the Dolly Gray Award for outstanding books about disability. The books covered a range of disabilities: developmental, physical, and learning disabilities as well as autism spectrum disorder. Even though these books won awards and show people with disabilities in mostly positive ways, there were still issues, stereotypes, and negative images that were examined and critiqued by the children.

During the whole-class read-aloud, the teachers of both classes asked open-ended questions about the picture books as they read, and they encouraged the children to talk during the reading of the book. Ms. Schild and Mrs. Stone pushed the children to consider the contradictions and tensions in stories, especially when issues of disability were at the forefront of the text. Both teachers encouraged the children to challenge and question each other, and they brought in the perspectives of the students with disabilities into the class discussions.

Students in both classrooms also participated in student-led, small-group literature discussions. The classes were divided up into four or five groups, depending on the students' reading or interest level. Students were given a choice of books to read, but they needed to be able to read the book independently, i.e., without assistance. While reading the books independently, children jotted down questions or comments in their response journals, and they brought their journals with them to the groups as a means of encouraging discussion. Both read-aloud and small-group discussions lasted 30 to 45 minutes.

Data Collection and Analysis

Student's talk before, during, and after read-aloud and small-group literature discussions was audio- and videorecorded. In all, 20 sessions in each classroom were taped and transcribed. I conducted interviews with the teachers three times using an open-ended method of questioning in order to understand the students' developing beliefs and attitudes towards disability. In addition, select children and parents were interviewed, and all children had the opportunity for reflection in writing. I was an observer in the classroom, which involved taking extensive field notes, observing the children during classroom activities, and writing reflective memos in order to tie together emerging categories as the data are analyzed.

The analysis of data was an evolutionary process of discovering recurring patterns by observing, recording, and reflecting. Data analysis was conducted simultaneously with data collection and interpretation. My analysis began with a summarization of classroom field notes, immersion in audio- and videotape data, and a preliminary identification of potential patterns as the tapes were transcribed. Through an ongoing review of my field notes as well as repeated immersion in the audio- and video- data, I began to sort out analytic categories. I followed Strauss and Corbin's (2007) series of steps for data analysis, which included open coding, axial coding, and selective coding. The unit for analysis was a conversational turn, which is defined as "the utterance that occurred until someone else spoke" (Sinclair & Coulthard, 1975, p. 263). During these analytic steps, I looked for themes that emerged during the process of categorization in order to explain how children were developing in their understandings of disability (Strauss & Corbin, 2007). The next sections provide in-depth descriptions of the major themes that emerged from the data.

Definitions of Disability

In the beginning of the curriculum units on disability, both teachers spent time helping children to understanding what disabilities were like. This theme shows how children wrestled with the boundaries of the disabilities portrayed in books. Although most of the books used in this study were fictional, many books provided factual information about a disability, either as a foreword or afterword. Children's discussions initially reflected an attempt to understand and define the characteristics of various disabilities. In Looking after Louis (Ely, 2004), a book about a boy with autism who gets away with behavior the other children cannot, the second- and third-graders tried to figure out the kind of disability that Louis had:

Ms. Schild: [reading] "Louis sometimes talks in the wrong place. Yesterday Miss Owlie said, 'Sit up straight, everybody.' Louis said, 'Sit up straight, everybody.' We all laughed because he sounded just like Miss Owlie.
Matt: Probably he has that one disability where/
Emily: //You can actually see him talking
Sam: Well, probably he has the disability where he repeats everything he hears/
Shane: //or autism
Ms. Schild: What do we know, do we know anything about um other people, have we read anything in other books?
Brittany: I read um, this one girl was talking to angels and she repeated what her brothers said/
Ms. Schild: and do you know what disability she had in that book?
Brittany: //She had autism.

Although accurate medical information is important, children had difficulty moving beyond definitions. Their language reflected the factual construction of disability as a conglomeration of characteristics, therefore reinforcing the medical model that shows the nature of disability as categorical and circumscribed (Solis, 2004). In viewing main characters as representatives of particular disabilities, children were constructing an "enlightenment narrative," in which a person with a disability functions primarily as an 'education device' for others, thereby viewing 'disabled' and 'non-disabled' as rigid categories (Dunn, 2010, p. 17).

The Boundaries of "Normal"

As children explored the definitions and characteristics of disability, the question of "what is normal" arose. In a discussion of Crow Boy (Yashima, 1976), a book about Chibi, a boy with autism who lives in the mountains of Japan, the second and third-graders wrestled with the idea of individual differences and being "normal." They also refer to two other picture books about boys with autism: My Brother Sammy (Edwards & Armitage, 2000) and Ian's Walk (Lears, 2003).

Micaila: Chibi and Sammy see the world in a way, different way.
Josh: No, I… uh… I sort of think that all of us do see the world in different ways.
Ms. Schild: We are all different, not just Sammy, not just Ian, not just Chibi.
Delia: So what's normal?
Riley: If there is so much normal the way some people describe it, then there is no normal left, so what's normal?
Ms. Schild: I think the word you guys were talking about is individual rather than different, that we are all individuals.

The children questioned and critiqued notions of "normality" and who decides what "normal" is. In considering differences among people, Micaila suggested that the characters from two books, both with autism, saw the world in a different way. Riley and Ms. Schild discussed the idea that we are all different, not just people with disabilities. Through a discussion of "normal," children came to consider individual differences and the range of individual differences and disability, as opposed to a static set of characteristics. Children were beginning to realize that there were more fluid boundaries to the definitions of disability and normality, and that definitions served different purposes for different people. As Ms. Schild pointed out, we are all individual, rather than different, but in using this language, Ms. Schild reinforced the notion that disability is defined individually, not as a continuum of abilities within society.

Idealization of Differences

The issue of differences arose in many conversations. In the following excerpt, the second- and third graders discussed See the Ocean (Condra, 2006) and how the main character, Nelly, could "see" the ocean with her mind and her heart, even though she was blind:

Ms. Schild: [reading] Nelly smiles to herself as she thought how very much she loved the ocean. [to the class] Why can Nelly see the ocean when no one could? Laura?
Rachel: I know how she could see it.
Sam:

Well, she could somehow with her mind see the picture. Maybe she was focusing more on trying to listen, to feel or smell.

Ms. Schild: She learns about the world in a little bit of a different way, doesn't she?

In this excerpt, the children were developing an understanding that people sometimes need to rely on different abilities, that they need to compensate or use their other senses, and that some people sometimes need assistance.

The children did, however, tend to idealize disability. Although some of the children understood that people with disabilities might need to learn differently, they made statements that reflected the belief that people with disabilities overdeveloped their other senses and capabilities as a way to compensate for their disability. This kind of idealization was reflected both in the literature and in the children's discussions, as evidenced by the discussion children had about The Hickory Chair (Fraustino, 2001). This picture book tells the story of Luis, who is blind, and how he is able to find hidden notes through his senses of smell, touch, and hearing. As Riley commented after reading it, "They say if you lose one thing, you always gain another." Jessica and Kamela continued this discussion:

Jessica: Maybe people with disabilities can be like people without disabilities, Like, if you're blind, you can still have fun and stuff, like people with disabilities.
Kamela: I mean, people with disabilities on some things they are limited, but still they can live in some ways the same way they would if they didn't have a disability, and also I like this book, cause it kinda makes you think about, even if you have a disability, you can use your other senses and think in another way.
Jessica: There's five senses, and you lose one, then it's not that bad, so then you can use your other senses.

By compensating for a disability, the character makes up for it by having another kind of value or relying on other senses, so that everyone ends up being the same in some sense. The notion that people can compensate for their disability by overdeveloping other senses is in keeping with conventional ways of looking at disability that "focus on 'fixing' people with disabilities, trying to make them 'fit' more seamlessly into what is seen as a 'normal' society" (Dunn, 2010, p. 16). Also, in weighing the value of abilities, this strategy ends up by reinforcing rather than challenging what is fundamentally a competitive view of what it is to be a person of value (Mills, 2002).

Focus on the Person

In socially constructing issues of disability, the students as readers considered how disability is socially situated in literature as well as the larger social implications of the issues in stories. As Gervay (2004) wrote, "it is perhaps more important to move away from didactic teaching into the realm of meaningful human experience focusing on the person and the story." In this study, children seemed to develop empathy with character before they were able to consider how disability impacted the characters' lives. It was important for the children to identify how they were similar to the characters in the books, such as their likes and interests, and to use these similarities as a basis for understanding the characters' disabilities.

Students in the fourth-fifth grade class read the novel Rules (Lord, 2008), which tells how 12-year-old Catherine copes with her autistic brother and how family life revolves around his disability. Excerpts from a small-group discussion show how students related to the characters in the books as multifaceted human beings who have many similarities and connections to themselves:

Kara: My mom sometimes holds my hand when I go to the clinic. She gets upset when I get late, like Jason.
Ana: I don't have a lot of friends in my neighborhood, either.
Tim:

My brother is sometimes annoying and embarrassing like David.

Chuck: I also have rules.

In addition to the many personal connections the children made to the characters and their lives during their discussion of Rules (Lord, 2008), they spent most of their conversations exploring the dilemmas and implications of the plot, such as why the character was afraid of going to school, why the character got into trouble, or why school was problematic for that character.

As a written response, Derek created a poem about the main character in Rules (Lord, 2008), which shows a complex understanding of who David was, both as an individual and as a boy with autism:

David
Brown hair, age 8, blue eyes, has autism
Sibling of Catherine
Lover of videos
Who feels left out
Who needs O.T.
Who gives Catherine a hard time
Who fears bees
Who would like to see the video store
Resident of the east coast
Special brother

In discussing the literary contexts and social implications of stories, the children in both multiage classrooms did not focus solely on the character's disability; rather, they considered disability as part of a complex set of individual characteristics, and they viewed the characters with disabilities as people who have many traits in common with themselves. As Kendrick (2004) observed: "More discerning writers portray people with [disabilities] as the individuals they are, with a unique range of skills and needs, and with an acknowledged position within the social structure of the family." Through reading and discussing fiction, the teachers encouraged their students to consider that the stories reflected real life and to use their imaginations to explore and understand their own world (Saunders, 2000).

Building on Strengths

Some of the books gave examples of children with disabilities who were helped when others recognized and built on their strengths, as this excerpt from Crow Boy (Yashima, 1976) shows. The children in the fourth-and fifth-grade discussed why one teacher was successful with Chibi, a boy with autism, but another one was not:

Stephanie: Um, my final thought is about how, well, you guys were just talking about, um, him talking to his teacher and stuff, and when his old teacher was there, his old teacher was probably mean and yelled a lot.
Kara:

Well, it seems to me, like this teacher focused on the things that he did know, right? Like he said he was so impressed with all the things that he knew about the places where wild grapes and potatoes grew, and how much he knew about the flowers in the garden, he loved his drawings and his handwriting/

Jen: //focused on the things he did know.

In Crow Boy (Yashima, 1976), a new teacher helped to draw Chibi out his isolation from others, and for the first time, he was a successful student who was recognized by his classmates as having unique gifts. In discussing the story, the fourth- and fifth-graders expressed the idea that Chibi was successful because his teacher "focused on the things he did know." They recognized that it is important, in a school setting, to build on the strengths of children, and that everyone has unique gifts and abilities.

Issues of Fairness and Equity

The focus of the children's discussions became, not whether readers sympathized with the characters because of their similarities or their disabilities, but whether this sympathy opened up a different perspective towards people in the "real world." Children in both classrooms became aware of the larger social implications of the stories they read, such as fair and equitable treatment, judging or making fun of others, and educational placements.

The fourth- and fifth-graders discussed Rainbow Joe and Me (Strom, 2002), a book about a man who can see colors even though he is blind, although other people do not believe him. Cory stated that Rainbow Joe's mother learned that is it was important "not to judge people," even though she was initially critical. Katie added: "It is okay to be different, and she learned that you should not judge people because of their disabilities."

Some children in the class expressed indignation during the read-aloud of Ian's Walk (Lears, 2003). The main character in the book is teased and bullied because he has autism. The students in grades four and five discussed how people with disabilities are treated differently or made fun of:

Maggie: People shouldn't treat people with disabilities differently than people who don't have disabilities.
Karina: I don't get why people make fun of people who have special needs or disabilities, it is mean, they really should think about how that person has special needs or disabilities and how they would feel if that person made fun of them.

The children in Ms. Schild's second- and third-grade class thought it was wrong or rude to label people with disabilities during their discussion of Rainbow Joe and Me (Strom, 2002), when Rainbow Joe's mother made fun of him when he told her he could see colors and paint.

Meagan:

Because you say a blind man can't do stuff, a blind man can't paint, a blind man…she is saying that a blind man can't do stuff

Ms. Schild: She is kind of labeling him and she might not know. Anybody want to say anything about mama's comment here? Marissa?
Marissa: It is really rude.
Ms. Schild: Why do you think is really rude?
Marissa:

Because she is labeling him as someone, she doesn't…she might not know.

Ms. Schild: You need to put yourself in his shoes.

In this discussion, Marissa believed that people with disabilities are labeled by others out of ignorance and rudeness. The children were exploring the causes and implications of unfair treatment, and they disapproved of the actions of those who did not understand. As Ms. Schild pointed out, if you put yourself in the person's shoes, you realize that people with disabilities are able to do more than you might think or believe.

Developing Advocacy

Children were aware during several discussions of the wider societal implications of disability and how they might be able to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. The developing stances toward advocacy are shown in the conversations that Mrs. Stone's fourth- and fifth-graders had about Looking after Louis (Ely, 2004) (italics added):

Malia: I was talking with Mrs. Gilbert, and she said something that people wouldn't say, You are autistic, they would rather like say, because you are not autism, you have it.
Ashlee: In Tru Confessions, he had a disability and he was in a regular classroom too, he wasn't like in a special classroom, he was just like in a normal classroom, so was Louis.
Anne: I was wondering if any schools in [this city], have special classes for like kids with disabilities?
Mrs. Stone: Um, those are called, usually, they are called self-contained classrooms. It means they are their own special classroom, and there are classes like that in [our county], but not at [this school].
Ashlee: Why?
Mrs. Stone: Why don't we have a class like that [here]?
Ashlee: No, I mean why do people have classes like that?
Anne: Really.
Malia: I mean, some people might really need those kinds of classrooms. Some people have really special needs, and sometimes you can't just match it up, so some people might need those classes.
Anne: And like people are blind maybe/
Mrs. Stone: But, well, if we had a student that was blind, do you think that student would be in our classroom?
Anne: Yeah, yes!
Ashlee: I always wanted to ask the question, cause I don't , I really don't think that people who have disabilities, and people who don't have disabilities should be like in separate classrooms, just cause they have a disability, cause like they'll need help more, but they still will learn like the rest of us, like we're all still learning.

An advocate is one who "pleads for another." In this excerpt, the children were making a case for the rights of children with disabilities on a number of levels. The children had researched terminology to refer to people with disabilities, and the class chose to adopt "people-first" language as a way of counteracting common cultural stereotypes. In this example, Malia was reinforcing the children's awareness of using "people first" language, i.e., a person has a disability, not is her disability.

Ashley and Anne brought up the issues of students with disabilities who are included in the general education classroom or who need to be educated for part or all of the time in another classroom. Mrs. Stone asked the children if they were able to imagine a blind student in their class, and they emphatically agreed that they would be accepting and supportive of that student, that they would respect others and their needs, and that they would want what is best for all children, but they would make sure the child got what she needed. In this example, the children are developing an inner stance towards advocacy; not only do they feel and think that children with disabilities should be treated fairly, but they would be willing to welcome and support children in their own classroom.

Discussion

At the end of the curriculum unit on disability, the teachers noticed a change in how disabled and non-disabled students interacted in the classroom. Ms. Schild related how, before the unit, students were resentful of a classmate with developmental disabilities who had an aide to help her; the classmates thought that she was receiving unfair privileges. After the unit, they understood why she needed assistance. One boy with autism, who was usually quiet and withdrawn during class time, participated actively in the book discussions and could identify with some of the characters in the stories. At one point he said, "That's like me. I have autism—a little bit." A parent noticed changes in her daughter: "She doesn't say, 'Oh, I changed,' but I notice a big difference in her attitude when we go out and see someone in a wheelchair. She'll go up and start talking to that person, and she won't complain about the kids in her class with ADHD anymore."

As a result of the unit, some students became involved in the community. Children in the fourth-fifth grade class found out that one of their classmates with developmental disabilities went for therapy at a therapeutic riding stable. At first, a few of her friends asked if they could accompany her, and gradually, there was a steady stream of volunteers at the stable, who not only mucked out the stalls but learned to appreciate the importance of the therapy for their friend and others in the community.

As was seen in this study, children with and without disabilities developed compassion and understanding for one another. With the guidance of their teachers, who pushed them to explore more deeply the issues surrounding disability, the children were able to become better informed and to deepen their understandings. Through exploring characters in books, children not only learned about various disabilities, but they came to understand characters with disabilities as full and complex beings, similar in many ways to themselves. The children with disabilities in both classrooms recognized and appreciated that children like themselves were represented, and therefore valued, in literature.

Children responded to the images in texts but also brought their own beliefs to the interpretations of stories, and their understandings of disability were enriched by the multiple viewpoints expressed by others in the classroom. This study shows that classrooms could be democratic places where children explore, through children's literature and the guidance of their teachers, real questions of disability.

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  • Souto-Manning, M. (2009). Negotiating culturally responsive pedagogy through multicultural children's literature: Towards critical democratic literacy practices in a first grade classroom, Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 9(1), 50-74.
  • Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (2007). Basics of qualitative research (3rd ed.). CA: Sage Publication.
  • Taber, N., & Woloshyn, V. (2011). Issues of exceptionality, gender, and power: Exploring Canadian children's award-winning literature. Gender and Education, 23(7), 889-902.
  • Thein, A., Beach, R., & Parks, D. (2007). Perspective-taking as transformative practice in teaching multicultural literature to white students. English Journal, 97(2), 54-60.
  • Walker, V. S., Mileski, T., Greaves, D., Patterson, L. (2008), Questioning representations of disability in adolescent literature. Disability Studies Quarterly, 28(4), www.dsq-sds.org.

Children's Literature Cited

  • Condra, E. (2006). See the ocean. NY: Inclusive Books.
  • Edwards, B., & Armitage, D. My brother Sammy. London, England: Bloomsbury.
  • Ely, L. (2004). Looking after Louis. Park Ridge, IL: Albert Whitman & Co.
  • Fraustino, L. R. (2001). Hickory chair. NY: Arthur A. Levine Books.
  • Lears, L. (2003). Ian's walk. Park Ridge, IL: Albert Whitman & Co.
  • Lord, C. (2008). Rules. NY: Scholastic.
  • Strom, M.D. (2002). Rainbow Joe and me. NY: Lee and Low Books.
  • Yashima, T. (1976). Crow boy. NY: Picture Puffins.
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Copyright (c) 2014 Donna Sayers Adomat



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