HomeNEXOvol. 1 no. 1 (2015)

Understanding the Portrayal of Disability in Selected Filipino Children’s Picture Books

Katrina Anne E. Blanco



This exploratory study examined disability literature that promotes acceptance and understanding of people with disabilities through the analysis of character, plot, theme, and style using the formalistic approach or New Criticism. It aimed to analyze how disability was illustrated in the six Filipino picture books, identify the kind of disability featured, depict the characters with disability, describe the interaction between the character with disability and other characters, evaluate how issues on disability are addressed, and analyze how Filipino writers talk about and treat disability in their stories.

Six picture books were examined: “Sandosenang Sapatos,” “May mga Lihim Kami Ni Ingkong,” “Ang Pambihirang Buhok ni Raquel,” “Xilef”, “May Duwende sa Sopas ng Kapatid Ko!,” and “My One- Boobed Mamma.” Through a close reading of the text, the researcher established the portrayal of character with disability, actions brought about by the disability, and depiction of the concept of disability.

The prominent types of disability observed were physical and mental impairment and illness. All characters with disability were used as protagonists, except for one who only played a supporting role. However, not all protagonists were illustrated as dynamic and developed characters. Nonetheless, characters with disability were illustrated as optimistic despite the discrimination some of them experienced. This led to the presentation of the different coping strategies used by the characters with disability and people surrounding them.

Not all picture books used disability as the main theme of the story but only as catalyst for discussion of other themes. Moreover, the explanation of the nature and cause of disability was only done when triggered by a drastic event. This showed the writers’ perspective on the Filipinos’ non-confrontational nature. Nonetheless, the explanation of disability in each story, which varied from vague to concrete, was usually made by family members. This proved another writer’s perspective, which is the Filipino’s strong family relationship.

With all the six picture books compared and analyzed, no unifying concept of disability was observed and no particular style was employed by each writer. This was due to the writers’ different background and gender difference. Nevertheless, common features about disability were observed in the six picture books such as discussion of symptoms of disability, coping strategies, and importance of family. Finally, no picture book was genuinely considered as disability literature because all books did not follow at least one cited evaluative measure for disability literature.