Reading in the Dark: Whiteness and Racial Representation in Caldecott Books

  • Terry Husband Illinois State University
  • Alice Lee Illinois State University
Keywords: Race, Privilege, White supremacy, Education


Teachers often choose books for their classroom libraries on the basis of an award or special recognition a particular book has received. In this vein, the Caldecott Medal is one of the most highly esteemed recognitions bestowed on children's picture books each year in the United States. Relatively few studies have examined how race is represented among main characters in Caldecott books. Using a Critical Content Analysis (CCA), we examine how race is represented among main characters in 80 Caldecott books from 1938 to 2017. Findings indicate that an overwhelmingly disproportionate percentage of the characters are White. In addition, the non-White main characters are portrayed in very narrow roles. Implications for teachers to consider when using these books are discussed.

Author Biographies

Terry Husband, Illinois State University

Terry Husband is an associate professor of early childhood literacy in the School of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. He has written several articles, book chapters, and books related to literacy development in African American boys in P–5 classrooms, critical literacies in early childhood classrooms, and analyzing and implementing multicultural children's literature in early childhood and elementary classrooms.

Alice Lee, Illinois State University

Alice Lee is an assistant professor of elementary literacy education in the School of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University. She taught for close to a decade with students in grades K through 7th grade. Her research interest focuses on teacher knowledge about African American Language and its pedagogical implications.