Document Type


Publication Date



Names and experiences in schools are often tied together in a child's identity formation. This is true for all children, but becomes an increasingly important topic as classrooms in the United States are becoming more diverse. In this study, we seek to explore the idea of names as identity in picture books depicting minority children. In doing so, we seek to understand the connections between the pressures to assimilate the names of diverse children and the behavior of their classroom teachers. To explore this topic, we have chosen to examine ten picture books published since 2000 that depict diverse children and their experiences surrounding their name and their identity in schools in the United States. To analyze these texts we used an inductive qualitative model for content analysis (Hesse-Biber and Leavy, 2011) and critical discourse analysis (Rogers and Christian, 2007) noting scenes and illustrations from the texts that best represent three main themes: Negotiating the Pressures to Assimilate, Teacher Characters and the Abdication of Responsibility, and Negotiating the Fear of Identity Loss. Critical literacy and postcolonial thought offer insights into the fear and pain associated with assimilation to school settings as well as the roles of adults, both parents and teachers, in perpetuating the assimilation of students into U.S. schools. The findings support the idea that while these books seek to empower minority and immigrant children, they often inadvertently reify the very systems of power they set out to critique.


Originally published as:

Keller, T. & Franzak, J.K. Children's Literature in Education (2016) 47: 177.

Included in

Education Commons