Reflections on Final Project, Exploring Diversity in Newbery Medal and Honor Books

I had quite the journey with my project, initially titled: Exploring Diversity in Newbery and Caldecott Medal and Honor Books. I had the idea for my proposal after we explored data and visualization and was excited to explore this topic. Lack of diversity in children’s literature is an ongoing problem, but what about the books that are awarded these distinguished medals, and then constantly promoted to children?

My plan was to analyze the Newbery and Caldecott books and see if historically underrepresented groups are actually represented and if there are any trends among the honorees. I would divide all pertinent bibliographic data into eight categories, and then use Tableau Public-very excited to use-to display my results. When I started counting all of the Medal and Honor Books I started to panic. There are a total of 733 Honorees. My immediate question was, can this project be completed in a semester? No. Of course not. So how can I break up the project? How much can I cut before I can’t accurately answer my research questions? I was thinking about only analyzing the Medal Winners, or maybe winners in a certain time range, but it didn’t feel right. Discussing my problem in class was helpful, and I was close to making a decision. I then went to the Data Visualization presentations last week for inspiration and was blown away by the projects. Congrats to everyone in the class! All of the presentations I saw used Tableau Public, and I got to chat with other students about their experiences with it. It’s one thing to look at recommended projects on the site, but another to play around with it while the creator is standing next to you.

It was during the after-party when I was speaking with some of my classmates and Michelle McSweeney, that I solved my dilemma. Michelle, who didn’t know much about the Medals, asked which one is more important? I answered Newbery and gave my reasoning (Caldecott focuses on the illustrations, not the story, not about the theme, etc). I think it takes having an outsider asking a question that put everything into focus for me. It was a simple solution and I should have come to it sooner, but I think I was too stubborn to let go of my original plan. I still think the Caldecott Books are important and will figure out a future project for them, but I will focus entirely on Newbery Books for the proposal. My book count is now 415, and while it is still a lot and gathering the data will take some time, I will be proud of my finished product. I collected some data already, and it looks promising. I can’t wait to present my proposal next semester.