Portrayals of Death: A Content Analysis of Picturebooks

Publication Date

Spring 2022

Faculty Advisor

Dr. Katie Danielson


School of Education


While society attempts to shield children from death, many are exposed to and impacted by death in their early years, either through the death of someone they know or through media portrayals of death. Even though adults often avoid discussing death with children, children as young as age three can understand the concept and benefit from discussing it with a trusted adult. One way to foster these conversations is through reading picturebooks. This research examines young children’s literature that focuses on dying and death. We report findings from a systematic review of children’s books focusing on how death is portrayed and discussed in these books. Data indicates that most books are written in a way that does not align with the explicit messaging young children need on the topic. There are also gaps in which characters died, how the characters died, and how much diversity is present within the books. Many books lack additional resources, which would be a beneficial support as parents and teachers tackle this tough topic.

Author Supplied Keywords

Death and Dying, Children’s Literature


Death in literature; Children and death; Death--Study and teaching (Elementary); Picture books for children--Evaluation

Publication Information

Copyright for this work is retained by the author.

ED 400H Senior Honor's Project

Document Type

Student Project

This document is currently not available here.