Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Childhood Education and Literacy Studies

Major Professor

Jenifer J. Schneider, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James King, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Cynthia Patterson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Barbara Shircliffe, Ph.D.


macroscopic reading, prizing, canonicity, interdisciplinarity


Typical critical patterns for studying children’s literature, defined in this study as a written text intended for a reader up to the age of 14, make it difficult to chart generic change across a large corpus of texts. Traditionally, criticism of children’s literature focuses on cherry picked archetypes, exemplars, and the standout extraordinary. This study employs interdisciplinary methods and data sources from library science, education, and literary studies to create a method for analyzing a sample corpus of children’s literature more holistically vis-à-vis distant, macroscopic reading techniques.

In this dissertation, I macroscopically read the corpus of Newbery Medal-winning texts in order to identify patterns of change in the genre of prized 20th century American children’s literature, seeking to animate this corpus of texts in different ways than is possible through microscopic analysis alone. The resulting analysis foregrounds the shared conventions of the text set, including descriptive elements, including bibliographic information, author information, publisher information, illustrative content, and length; structural elements, point of view, literary form, and select measures of text complexity; and thematic elements, including book summaries and subject analyses from a range of library, publisher, and social media databases. In addition, I consider various metrics for assessing popularity of the corpus as a whole and the ways in which popularity changes as time passes.

Ultimately, in this dissertation I distantly read the corpus in conversation with existing critical understandings of the Newbery Medal, which previous critics generated using microscopic, close reading techniques, in order to investigate what changes with the introduction of distant methods. Distantly reading this corpus in conversation with existing critical understandings of the Newbery reveal that a more holistic approach to analysis paints a broader, more complete picture of the genre of prized children’s literature than microscopic, close reading alone does. Further, distant reading underscores the critical importance of explicit attention to methodology. The results that distant reading uncovers are inextricably intertwined with the methodological decisions made.