Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Professional Writing (MAPW)



Committee Chair/First Advisor

Dr. Lara Smith-Sitton


Dr. Chris Palmer


Children in America today struggle with finding themselves in the books they read due to societal expectations. From an early age, children are dictated on the correct way to speak and write in “American,” which can leave children and their home languages feeling unseen and dismissed. To help further the conversation and promotion of linguistic diversity in American society, this capstone analyzes dialectal representation in children’s books, with a heavy focus on attitudinal linguistic principles rather than prescriptive mechanics. The secondary research explores current literature and resources that discuss literacy acquisition in adolescents, trends in dialects in America, and childhood sense of self at an early age. Additionally, this research discusses current trends in the publishing industry regarding voice and African American, Latinx/Spanish-speaking, and Appalachian/Southern linguistic representation in fictional children’s and young adult literature; this conversation regarding trends in the industry will lead to an analysis of the relationship between authenticity of voice and the #OwnVoices movement. Finally, the primary research dissects and critically assesses first-hand insights from children’s book publishing professionals as to how the industry can best include and promote the importance of seeing and hearing children’s voices in the books they read. The results of this study indicate that secretly sinister gatekeeping practices threaten true growth and inclusion regarding diverse voices in children's literature, and the capstone concludes with potential calls to action for linguists, educators, and children's literature publishers alike.