Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

Major Professor

Anthony Nownes

Committee Members

Robert G. Gorman, David Houston, Sandra Twardosz


The purpose of this study was to describe the civic content of children’s literature. A content instrument was prepared to measure the presence of civic and political concepts within a sample of children’s literature consisting of 51 bestsellers and 35 Newbery Award winners from 1960-2001. While manifest political agendas are minimal within children’s literature, this study found a heavy presence of civic content as defined by civic education standards. Children’s literature is permeated with the structure, skills, values and behavior of democracy. Findings show that civic content corresponds with developmental characteristics in children of the relevant age group. Findings also reveal that some civic concepts tend to cluster together. I identify these as civic narratives likely to be found within children’s literature. These narratives show that some civic concepts are consistently used with one another. I also show that much of the civics concepts found in children’s literature is an extension of their development, not due to some political agenda. I recommend that civic education be given the attention it deserves and that further research is needed in both how child citizens develop and the content of other forms of mass media.

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