By Liz Thackeray Nelson & Lauren Aimonette Liang
Right around this time last year, the blog featured two posts from CLA officer Dr. Wendy Stephens who deftly described the exciting annual YMA awards for children and adolescents. Wendy’s posts offer a rich introduction to understanding the focus of each of these prestigious awards, as well as a few other children’s book awards from other organizations, and some of the general selection criteria.
In our undergraduate children’s literature course we introduce these important awards to begin discussions around evaluation of children’s books. We consider how the criteria might point to ways of evaluating excellence in children’s and young adult literature, and consider the connection of this evaluation to selection of books for use in classrooms, libraries, and other settings.
We also use these award discussions as a way to heighten awareness of the business and marketing side to children’s literature, particularly considering how awards can influence sales, authors’ and illustrators’ careers, publishing trends, and ultimately access to books. Below we briefly describe a reading-reflection sequence and activity that we have found helpful in building undergraduate students’ understanding of the impact of an award.
Reading-Reflection Sequence 1: Read about older children’s book award debates.
We have found that our undergraduate students, in general, have had very little exposure to children’s book awards prior to this class. Many recognize either the Newbery or Caldecott as being a book award for children, but few are aware there are other awards beyond this.
Thus our first step is to introduce students to the idea that there exists many more awards beyond those two. To begin priming students’ thinking about the full range of awards, and their impact, we start by having them read Marc Aronson’s (2001) article, “Slippery Slopes and Proliferating Prizes,” published in The Horn Book Magazine. In addition to reading Aronson’s article, students read the letters to the editor published in the next Horn Book issue that respond to Aronson’s piece as well as Andrea Davis Pinkney’s response article, “Awards that Stand on Solid Ground.”
After students read, we pose Aronson’s position to students: There are too many awards. Students then compose a brief response as to whether or not they agree with the statement and their reasoning. At this point in the discussion, students are often about 50/50 in where they fall on the issue.
Reading-Reflection Sequence 2: Read about the lack of diversity in awards.
To extend Andrea Davis Pinkney’s response article, we then ask students to read two additional articles that begin to address the lack of diversity in books that win the Newbery and Caldecott Medals: Roger Sutton’s (2016) “Last Stop, First Steps” and Megan Dowd Lambert’s (2015) “#WeGotDiverseAwardBooks: Reflections on Awards and Allies.”
We deliberately use these short editorial pieces, both written near the beginning of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks (2014) movement, as they continue students’ understanding of not only these awards, but also focus on the historical lack of diversity in United States’ children’s literature and more recent focus on this problem. Dowd Lambert’s piece mentions the hashtag specifically, which encourages students to visit the WNDB page, where they can learn more. Sutton’s editorial reinforces this with reference to a 1996 discussion, and presentation of numbers of nonwhite authors. It also brings up issues related to book genre and format
After reading these two short pieces, students are again asked to consider the statement: There are too many awards, and then compose a brief response as to whether or not they agree with the statement at this point, and their new reasoning for why they continue in their same opinion, or have now changed their answer. At this point in the activity, with students now having learned a little about the lack of diversity in award winners, we often find that those students who initially thought there were too many awards begin to shift their opinions. And those who disagreed with Aronson from the beginning often feel more justified in their stance that there are not too many awards.
Reading-Reflection Sequence 3: Read about the impact of awards on authors.
Next, we continue to further students’ understanding by having them learn about the author’s experiences in receiving an award. We seek out the newest reactions; for example, this year, we shared short articles from Publisher’s Weekly about Donna Barba Higuar, Jason Chin, and Andrea Bouley’s experiences when they found out they had won their respective awards. In connection with these readings, we typically ask students to read the short piece “Recognizing Rising Stars” (Aimonette Liang, Reading Today, 2015) that discusses the history and impact of the ILA Children’s and Young Adult Book awards that are designed to honor new authors with extraordinary promise. Quotes from multiple winners highlight the way an award can change the trajectory of an author’s career.
After students consider these additional perspectives, we again ask them to consider the statement: There are too many awards. Once again, they present their opinion and reasoning. We then ask students to explain how their ideas around awards have changed over the course of the set of readings.
Final Activity: Tracking Amazon rankings of award books.
For our final activity to develop students’ understanding of the impact of children’s and young adult book awards, we have students track Amazon book rankings of winning books in the days after the YMA awards have been announced (see our class-compiled results for 2022 below). Students are assigned to an award and asked to find the winning book and honor books on Amazon as soon after the award announcements as possible. They record the sales rank. Students then check 24 hours later on the books’ sales ranks on Amazon. Students are typically shocked at how within hours of the award announcements books are sold out and have substantially higher rankings than they did before; for example, “When I looked earlier today [it] was #2277 and when I looked just now [it] is now #1 in children’s graphic novels. I can’t believe it was that low on the list earlier today and is now sitting at #1!”
This experience helps students understand the impact of awards on the sales of books, and they begin to recognize further how this can affect the sales of future books by the author, and even the publisher in general. (We often add an additional quick check on changes in the sales of the author’s and illustrator’s previous books, or on the sales of that particular genre or format, etc.) Combined with the earlier reflections on readings, the students often begin to bring up concerns about how the award book might affect future children’s book sales, and thus access to both that particular book and others like it.
In their final reflections on awards written after this last activity, nearly all, if not 100%, of the students in the class believe that there is value in having a wide array of awards that can honor diverse authors, illustrators, and books. Some students even go as far to state that there aren’t enough awards!
Aronson, M. (2001). Slippery slopes and proliferating prizes. The Horn Book Magazine, 77(3), 271-278.
Garza de Cortes, O., Bern, A., Watson, J.S., Bishop, R.S., Edwards, C., Blubaugh, P., Caldwell, N., Holton, L., Hamilton, V., Taylor, D., Smith, H., Danielson-Francios, S., Rudd, D., Pinsent, P., Bush, M., & Hurwitz, J., (2001). Letters to the editor. The Horn Book Magazine, 77(5), 500-508.
Lambert, M.D. (2015). #WeGotDiverseeAwardBooks: Reflections on awards and allies. The Horn Book Magazine, 91(4), 101-104.
Liang, L.A. (2015). Recognizing rising stars. Reading Today, 32(6), 34-35.
Lodge, S. (2022, Jan. 25). Donna Barba Higuera’s Newbery win: A dual celebration. Publishers Weekly.
Maughan, S. (2022, Jan. 25). Angeline Boulley’s Printz win: Tears, champagne, and…lawyers? Publishers Weekly.
op de Beck, N. (2022, Jan. 25). Jason Chin’s Caldecott win: ‘Kind of a surreal experience.’ Publishers Weekly.
Pinkney, A.D. (2001). Awards that stand on solid ground. The Horn Book Magazine, 77(5), 535-539.
Sutton, R. (2016). Last stop, first steps. The Horn Book Magazine, 92(4), 11-12.
Liz Thackeray Nelson is a doctoral candidate in Reading and Literacy at the University of Utah. She is chair of the CLA Membership Committee and co-editor of the CLA Blog.
Lauren Aimonette Liang is Associate Professor at the Department of Educational Psychology of the University of Utah. She is Past President of CLA and co-editor of the CLA Blog.
By Peggy S. Rice and Ally Hauptman on behalf of the Ways and Means Committee
Paola Escobar, award winning illustrator of picture books such as the Pura Belpré winner, Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré, is also a graphic designer. As a child, she enjoyed illustrating stories about her family and culture that were told by her Columbian grandmother. This inspired her to become a children’s book illustrator. She collaborates with publishers all over the world to celebrate cultural diversity.
Illustration for Auction: This detailed, double-page spread illustration from Queen of Tejano Music: Selena by Silvia Lopez (2020) depicts the cultural diversity of Lake Jackson, Texas, the Southwest town the Quintellas moved to when Selena was a young child in the 1970s. This picture book biography includes a thorough narrative of the singer’s life for children. Paola’s detailed, double-page expressionistic illustrations provide the reader with insights into the family’s immersion in music and their hard work ethic.
Deborah Freedman, noted author-illustrator, creates connections to nature through the creation of lovable personified characters.
Illustration for Auction: This heartwarming matted illustration from Carl and the Meaning of Life depicts the field mouse asking Carl the question that sets him on his adventure, meeting creatures of the forest and discovering that everyone can make a difference by being themselves with even the smallest creature. Freedman presents a worm’s eye view of the web of life through the perspective of lovable Carl, providing children an opportunity to understand the wonder and interconnectedness of nature and develop a love for worms or overcome a fear of worms.
Aaliya Jaleel, a Sri-Lankan American illustrator who illustrates fiction and nonfiction texts that depict perspectives of Muslims, uses bright pastel colors and flowers to create hope and inspiration.
Illustration for Auction: This vibrant, matted and framed illustration from Muslim Girls Rise (Mir, 2019) depicts one of the nineteen Muslim women leaders of the 21st century featured in this collection of brief, information-rich biographies. Jaleel’s vibrant illustrations add inspiration and create hope, encouraging readers to “find their passion” while providing Muslim women role models.
Tim Miller, imaginative author-illustrator of hilarious animal fantasy, written by himself and other authors, uses a cartoon style to capture readers’ attention.
Illustration for Auction: This illustration from Tiny Kitty, Big City depicts a tiny, brave, playful kitty on her adventure through the big city that ends with her finding her forever home. An advocate for animal rescue, the story was inspired by the author-illustrator’s experience rescuing a litter of kittens in New York City and finding them homes.
Pete Oswald, talented author-illustrator of fiction, is also an award-winning production designer of animated films such as The Angry Birds Movie. Many of the books he has illustrated are modern fantasy with delightful personified characters, such as a cookie, providing young readers with opportunities to laugh as they develop understandings of important themes (truth in fantasy).
Illustration for Auction: Although Pete created this original specifically for the CLA auction, this delightful frog could be discovered by the characters in his wordless book, Hike (2020). This adventure of a father and child experiencing the beauty of the natural world includes detail-rich panels and textured panoramas that create opportunities for readers to be immersed in nature.
Melissa Sweet, award-winning American author-illustrator, not only illustrates stories she writes, but also collaborates with other authors. With fiction and biographies, she captures readers’ attention through the use of watercolor, mixed media and collage.
Illustration for Auction: This mixed media illustration from A River of Words depicts the poet, William Carlos Williams, looking out his window for inspiration from nature. Williams earned his living as a physician, but writing poetry was his passion. This picture book biography is the 2009 Caldecott Honor Book, an ALA Notable Book, A New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book, A Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book and an NCTE Notable Children’s Book.
As you can see, there are some striking pieces of art in this year’s auction. A special thank you to all of the illustrators who so generously donated their work and to Patty Rosati at HarperCollins Children’s Books, our publisher liaison. See you at the auction!
2021 Art Auction Details
Peggy S. Rice is an associate professor in the Department of Elementary Education at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She is a member of the Ways and Means Committee for CLA.
Ally Hauptman is an associate professor at Lipscomb University. She is the chair of the Ways and Means Committee for CLA and a serving CLA board member.
By Donna Sabis-Burns, Rachel Skrlac Lo, and Casey O'Donnell on behalf of the CLA Breakfast Committee
Looking out the window we begin to see the slight change in color of the fall foliage, a brisker feel to the air, and school busses carrying students to their not-so-new-normal classrooms. Apples, pumpkins, and “Indian” corn are appearing in the grocery store aisles. The gift of autumn is here. One highlight of this time of year is the NCTE Annual Conference held in November. Under “normal” circumstances, the Children’s Literature Assembly Breakfast is held in person as part of that gathering. While we will not be able to meet in person this year, the CLA Breakfast will be offered as a live event during the conference. In anticipation of our session, we are sharing about some of the most prolific, wonderful Indigenous multiple award-winning storytellers from across the Four Directions.
Cynthia Leitich-Smith (Muscogee Creek), Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation), Michaela Goade (Tlingit), Carole Lindstrom (Metis), and Kevin Maillard (Seminole Nation) will make up this year’s Breakfast speaker panel. They will offer insight into their creative writing process, share their newest work, and offer some candid thoughts on how being Indigenous has strengthened their entire literature experience.
These storytellers celebrate #OwnVoices in the here and now. They offer counter stories to highlight the dynamism of Native American and Alaska Native communities for all ages. During a conversation with them in February 2021, we discussed the joys of reading and storytelling and reflected on the importance of celebrating the rich legacy of Native experiences that influence contemporary society. Native American, American Indian, or Indigenous peoples (terms used interchangeably) make up the 575+ federally recognized tribes and 200+ state-recognized tribes, much diversity exists across this Indigenous landscape in the United States. To celebrate this diversity, in this post, we will share with you the newest works from these amazing storytellers, including samples of teacher guides, links to audio-books, artwork, and other storytelling materials to share both in and outside of the classroom.
Teachers strive to create an environment for children that is all-embracing because they know that when children feel accepted, they will be happy, healthy, and confident members of society. This spirit of inclusiveness should permeate not only the social dynamic of the classroom, but the teaching materials as well. Children’s books that are endowed with social justice themes and multicultural issues provide a much richer reading experience than texts with homogeneous characters and unchallenging stories. The stories shared by these authors and illustrator offer many ways to enlighten students of all ages to the diverse books, cultural nuances, and traditions that Indigenous people bring to the table. Check out these teacher resources for a glimpse into the rich world of native storytelling.
Activity Kits and Teacher Guides
When students encounter texts that feature characters with whom they can connect, they can see how others are like them and how literature can play a role in their lives. If students can feel connected to books, not only will they be more apt to obtain the intrinsic motivation to increase the amount of reading they do, but they will also begin to feel more accepted as strong and unique members of society and to become less vulnerable to negative stereotyping and feelings of oppression. It is the hope of our storytellers that these resources be shared with all students, to demonstrate not only resiliency and determination, but also joy and grace within the texts and illustrations to take them to places they have never seen or heard of before. Below are are some video and audio resources related to some of the works of our storytellers.
Video & Audio Resources
We are obligated to educate our youth with a clear lens and to teach the richness of realistic, authentic, and contemporary literature for children and young adults. We need to promote books where Indigenous characters are up front and visible, not hidden or pushed aside. We want to highlight in a bold, distinguishable manner characters and stories that unveil and promote the beauty of diverse literature written/illustrated by and for Native Nations (also called Indigenous people and used interchangeably here when the specific Nation is not known), and all other marginalized groups. The storytellers highlighted here, and across the land, provide a glimpse of the wonderment and beauty that present-day and historical Indigenous culture and traditions bring to the literature landscape.
Come celebrate with us at 9 am (EST) on November 21, 2021 at the CLA Breakfast at NCTE! There will be great conversation and book giveaways!
Donna Sabis-Burns, Ph.D., an enrolled citizen of the Upper Mohawk-Turtle Clan, is a Group Leader in the Office of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of Education* in Washington, D.C. She is a Board Member (2020-2022) with the Children's Literature Assembly, Co-Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Committee, and Co-Chair of the 2021 CLA Breakfast meeting (NCTE).
Rachel Skrlac Lo is an Assistant Professor at Villanova University. She is a Board Member (2020-2022) with the Children's Literature Assembly, Co-Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Committee, and Co-Chair of the 2021 CLA Breakfast meeting (NCTE).
Casey O'Donnell is a graduate student in the Masters Plus Teacher Certification Program at Villanova University.
*The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Education. No official endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of any product, commodity, service, or enterprise mentioned herein is intended or should be inferred.
BY JEANNE GILLIAM FAIN ON BEHALF OF THE NCBLA 2021 COMMITTEE
The NCBLA 2021 committee has the following charge as a committee:
The charge of the seven-member national committee is to select 30 books that best exemplify the criteria established for the Notables Award. Books considered for this annual list are works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry written for children, grades K-8. The books selected for the list must meet the following criteria:
1. be published the year preceding the award year (i.e. books published in 2021 are considered for the 2020 list);
2. have an appealing format;
3. be of enduring quality;
4. meet generally accepted criteria of quality for the genre in which they are written;
5. meet one or more of the following criteria:
Books transport us into new places and sometimes take us out of the craziness of the world. This was one of those years where we experienced unexpected challenges. I led this committee as we navigated some of the real challenges of the pandemic. To be perfectly honest, in September when we didn’t have the normal number of books, I panicked.
I am truly thankful for this thoughtful committee that continually encouraged me to keep going as I contacted publishers in hopes of obtaining more physical copies of books. Many publishers returned from turbulent times and physical copies of books were difficult to obtain. However, as a committee member, it’s just easier to dig deeper with a text when you have a physical copy in front of you. Thankfully, publishers started returning to sending physical copies of books at the end of January and in February. We continue to be so thankful for the support many publishers extended to us as they worked diligently to send our committee books. However, that meant, that we had to read on a rigorous schedule and we often had to meet more than twice a month in order to have critical conversations around the literature.
Here’s a figure that highlights our process as a committee:
Recurrent Themes from the 2021 NCBLA List
Some of the 2021 NCBLA Books
Jeanne Gilliam Fain is s a professor at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee and Chair of the 2021 Notables Committee.
2021 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts Selection Committee Members
BY DONNA SABIS-BURNS
We are obligated to educate our youth with a clear lens and to teach the richness of realistic, authentic, and contemporary literature for children and young adults. We need to promote books where Indigenous characters are up front and visible, not hidden or pushed aside. We want to highlight in a bold, distinguishable manner characters and stories that unveil and promote the beauty of diverse literature written/illustrated by and for Native Nations (also called Indigenous people and used interchangeably here when the specific Nation is not known), and all other marginalized groups.
The movements of #OwnVoices and #WeNeedDiverseBooks have elevated the bar by offering a deeper focus and expanded landscape for celebrating the intricacies that Native storytelling brings to the table. Much too often, books featuring Indigenous people are only pulled off the shelf in October (Columbus) and November (Thanksgiving/Native Heritage Month). Well, it is March/April and I am pleased to share with you some resources you may want to check out and bookmark this spring to break that cycle. This blog post features a few rich and informative web pages, the American Indian Literature Awards (AILA), a shout out to an award-winning #OwnVoices book, and other informative and fun resources that highlight the resilience, authenticity, and beauty in literature through a kaleidoscope of traditions representative of the vast diversity across Indian Country.
Native Cultural Links
What is impressive about this site is its refreshing approach to much-needed stories about Indigenous, contemporary young heroes and heroines. These heartfelt accounts are reflective of the many different Nations of a modern United States and Canada. This is a breath of fresh air because it does not perpetuate the notion that Indigenous peoples are not around anymore. Do not get me wrong, there is a definite need for authentic, truthful history stories of Native Nations, but it is truly wonderful to be able to share a good story about real time people in real time situations in a modern setting. This is a new resource that is just getting off the ground and it already has some exquisite stories to share with you.
Oyate.org is a small but mighty Indigenous organization working to share the life and histories of Indigenous people with the utmost level of honesty and integrity. This is a resource that serves as a portal into the past and is reflective of today’s society where diverse, #ownvoices books are most necessary. Oyate, appropriately named after the Dakota word for “people,” believes that the world is a healthier place when there is a better understanding and respect for one another and when history is truthfully acknowledged. They aim to distribute literature and learning materials by Indigenous authors and illustrators, provide critical evaluation of books and curricula with Indigenous themes, and offer workshops “Teaching Respect for Native Peoples.” They also have a small resource center and reference library that can be very useful for any educator or parent (or youth for that matter). Since the pandemic, the store portion of the site is temporarily not working at full capacity, but there are many other fine choices for you to peruse and enjoy.
We cannot mention websites about literature featuring Indigenous people without showcasing the American Indians in Literature (AICL) website. Established by Dr. Debbie Reese of Nambé Pueblo, and later joined by Dr. Jean Mendoza as co-editor, the AICL website provides a critical analysis of the presence of Indigenous peoples in children's and young adult books and so much more. This website is like walking into a bakery with so many wonderful choices it is hard to decide what to try first. It has been around for 15 years and is most certainly more than just a place to find a list of best books. You can discover Indigenous authors and illustrators in the Photo Gallery section, or maybe you’d rather learn tips for creating instructional materials featuring different Native nations. You can even research what books you should NOT be sharing out there. It is really a gem of a resource.
AILA Youth Literature Award
Did you know there is an award specifically for literature featuring Indigenous people? Since 2006, the American Indian Library Association (AILA) biennially considers the finest writing and illustrations by Indigenous peoples of North America for the AILA Youth Literature Award. AILA identifies and honors works that “present Indigenous North American peoples in the fullness of their humanity.” Winners and Honor Books are selected in the categories: Best Picture Book, Best Middle Grade Book, and Best Young Adult Book. If you ever need a resource for choosing quality literature, make sure you visit the American Indian Youth Literature Award web page.
For those not familiar with this organization, AILA is an affiliate of the American Library Association and it is devoted to disseminating information about Indigenous cultures and languages to the library community and beyond.
Check out the video for the 2020 Award winners.
Did you know?
Congratulations to illustrator Michaela Goade (Tlingit) for her 2021 Caldecott Award winning book, We are Water Protectors (2020), authored by Carole Lindstrom (Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe). Goade is the very first Indigenous winner of this prestigious award. With Earth Day around the corner, this would be a fabulous book to share. There is even a We are Water Protectors Activity Kit!
Read Native 2021 Reading Challenge
The “American Indian Library Association invites you to participate in the inaugural reading challenge. With this challenge we support and recognize our Indigenous authors, scientists, legislators, storytellers, and creators throughout the year, not just during the national Native American Heritage month.” Here is a fun reading challenge to engage readers of all ages.
Throughout the year, find and read books and publications by and about Native Americans; visit tribal websites; search peer reviewed scholarly journals; visit Native-owned bookstores; and check with Native librarians for the best sources for learning more about Native Nations and Indigenous people around the world.
Donna Sabis-Burns, Ph.D., an enrolled citizen of the Upper Mohawk-Turtle Clan, is a Group Leader in the Office of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of Education* in Washington, D.C. She is a Board Member (2020-2022) with the Children's Literature Assembly, Co-Chair of the 2021 CLA Breakfast meeting (NCTE), and Co-Chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity Committee at CLA.
*The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Education. No official endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of any product, commodity, service, or enterprise mentioned herein is intended or should be inferred.
BY ERIKA THULIN DAWES & XENIA HADJIOANNOU, ON BEHALF OF THE BIOGRAPHY CLEARINGHOUSE
On January 20, 2021, we witnessed the swearing in of the first woman vice president of the United States of America. The oath of office was administered by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina member of the court. This celebratory moment stood both as a joyous milestone marking just ‘how far’ women have come and was at the same time a stark reminder of persistent gender inequities in our society. The COVID-19 Pandemic has highlighted continued disparities as women have dropped out of the workforce at far higher numbers than their male counterparts, likely due to disproportionate responsibilities of child care and housework (Bateman & Ross, 2020).
As we continue to work toward greater equality for women, here in the United States and globally, it is critical to share with young people the stories of women across history who have worked toward breaking boundaries for themselves and for other women. Tanya Lee Stone’s Almost Astronauts, 13 Women Who Dared to Dream is an important narrative in that history. Stone relates the story of women’s eventual entry to NASA’s space program by focusing on the stories of 13 women who dreamed of being astronauts and proved themselves through a private testing program in the early 1960s to be just as capable as their male counterparts.
Almost Astronauts is a history text that is highly biographical. It features life stories, but it is not a traditionally organized biography of a single individual or a collection of biographies. To shape the historical narrative, Stone employs several biographer techniques such as well researched and documented character sketches, biographical blurbs, and narrative episodes. The latter are of particular note, as Stone’s vivid descriptions place the reader in the moment with these women as they pursue their dreams. The book is replete with photographs, as well as reproductions and descriptions of primary source documents and artifacts that support and enhance the narrated events but also help establish their historical context.
With a compelling narrative, engaging life stories, and immersive description, Almost Astronauts is a versatile teaching tool for middle and high school classrooms. It fits well in units on space exploration, women’s history, boundary breaking, gender stereotyping, and narrative writing. In our entry on The Biography Clearinghouse, we use the Investigate, Explore, and Create Model to present ideas for using this book in the classroom as a read aloud, a text to use in literature circles, a mentor text, and a resource text.
Below we feature one of two time-gradated teaching recommendations included in the Create section of our Almost Astronauts Book Entry.
Composing Multimodal Multigenre Biographies
When researching the Mercury 13, Tanya Lee Stone used an array of multimodal primary and secondary sources, which are listed at the back of the book. The book itself includes many photographs, descriptions of images and events, and transcripts of interactions that reproduce or explicitly reference those sources. In our entry on Almost Astronauts at The Biography Clearinghouse you will find a curated list of multimodal resources to open up the world of the book for classroom communities and support an immersive, multimodal engagement with it.
In this recommendation, students have the opportunity to engage in their own biography research and experiment with biography composition through a multimodal, multigenre approach.
Bateman, N., & Ross, M. (2020, October 14). Why has COVID-19 been especially harmful for working women? Brookings Institute Essays. https://www.brookings.edu/essay/why-has-covid-19-been-especially-harmful-for-working-women/
Harper, L. (1997). The writer’s toolbox: Five tools for active revision instruction. Language Arts, 74(3), 193–200.
Erika Thulin Dawes is a Professor of Language and Literacy at Lesley University where she teaches courses in children’s literature and early childhood literacy. She blogs about teaching with children’s literature at The Classroom Bookshelf, a School Library Journal blog, and is a former chair of NCTE’s Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children.
Xenia Hadjioannou is an Associate Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the Harrisburg campus of Penn State University where she teaches and works with pre- and in-service teachers through various courses in language and literacy methodology. She is the co-director of the Capital Area Writing Project, the Vice President and Website Manager of the Children's Literature Assembly, and a co-editor of The CLA Blog.
BY MEGHAN VALERIO & WILLIAM BINTZ
Recently, I (William) introduced crossover picturebooks in a graduate literacy course to students pursuing a reading specialization Master’s degree. All students were practicing teachers ranging from elementary through high school. Each week, I read aloud a crossover picturebook to introduce the class session. Selected picturebooks dealt with themes including death and dying, divorce, suicide, mental illness, physical disability, parent-child separation, and other life-changing and impactful events. One example is Dragon by Gro Dahle (2018). It tells the story of Lilli, a young girl who is a child abuse victim by her mother. Lilli regards her mother as a dragon because she is explosive, hot-tempered, and abusive. After reading, I invited students to share their questions and reactions to crossover picturebooks. Three questions and one reaction were particularly illustrative:
These responses inspired this blog post. They revealed teachers may not know much about crossover literature but are curious to know more about it.
What are Crossover Picturebooks?
Crossover literature, or texts written for dual-aged audiences, is not a new genre, as many books could be considered crossover already. While picturebooks specifically might be enjoyed by both children and adults, crossover picturebooks, a subset of crossover literature, are written and illustrated intentionally for both children and adults, breaking conventional assumptions that books are intended for one age group (Falconer, 2008; Harju, 2009, Rosen, 1997). Crossover authors communicate purposeful messages to both audiences equally (Harju, 2009). Narratives then are considered ageless and timeless, often portraying issues that might be deemed controversial including death, verbal and physical abuse, and divorce.
In a world where in-person and online book shopping and borrowing is organized by genre and age, this makes these “ageless” books complex. Consider first an adult purchasing a picturebook for themselves, and on the flip side, encouraging a child to purchase a book about abuse. Both instances could be questionable, even alarming to some.
While there are truly designated texts for children, like aesthetic and sensory appealing babybooks (Kümmerling-Meibauer, 2015), crossover picturebooks defy traditional book categorizing norms, causing anyone interested to rethink what counts as children’s literature vs. adult.
Children’s literature though is written and published by adults for children (Rosen, 1997). So really, is there such a thing as a true children’s book if the text isn’t written by children at all?
What Concerns Does This Raise?
Currently, we are conducting research on crossover picturebooks. Specifically, we are exploring teacher concerns on using this literature in the classroom. Based on this research, two major findings indicate that many K-12 teachers worry about the following issues:
These concerns, and many others like them, are real for teachers. Traditionally, children’s literature is to be enjoyable not uncomfortable, entertaining not controversial. Crossover literature invites a different perspective and pushes the envelope on censorship and what constitutes taboo topics in classrooms. To help explore this further, we recommend the following resources. These resources include picturebooks and professional literature that have pushed our thinking about crossover literature. We hope they will push yours.
Bishop, R.S. (1990). Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom, 6 (3).
Falconer, R. (2008). The Crossover Novel: Contemporary Children’s Fiction and Its Adult Readership. London, UK: Routledge.
Harju, M.L. (2009). Tove Jansson and the crossover continuum. The Lion and the Unicorn, 33(3), 362-375.
Kümmerling-Meibauer, B. (2015). From baby books to picturebooks for adults: European picturebooks to the new millennium. Word & Image, 31 (3), 249-264.
Rosen, J. (1997). Breaking the age barrier. Publishers Weekly. 243 (6).
Meghan Valerio is a doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction with a Literacy emphasis at Kent State University. Meghan’s research interests include investigating literacy and cognitive development from a critical literacy perspective, centering curricula to understand reading as a transactional process, and exploring pre- and in-service teacher perspectives in order to enhance literacy instructional practices and experiences.
William Bintz is Professor of Literacy Education in the School of Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum Studies at Kent State University. His professional interests include the picturebook as object of study, literature across the curriculum K-12, and collaborative qualitative literacy research.
BY JENNIFER SUMMERLIN
The Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts Committee (NCBLA) read and reflected on over 400 of the newest books (published in 2019) for readers in grades K-8. Committee members considered the following qualities for choosing the final 30 titles to make the NCBLA Notables 2020 list:
I will start by providing a brief summary, followed by corresponding primary source images and instructional strategies for maximizing text and supporting visual literacy. Coupling quality historical fiction texts with visual primary sources like infographics, charts, graphs, photographs, illustrations, or political cartoons affords opportunities to critically explore and unpack images, while building background knowledge and making connections to the text (Lent, 2016; Harris, 2010).
This beautiful picture book features one strong-willed young girl, Louisa Belinda Bellflower, determined to learn to ride a bicycle. This story, set in Rochester, New York in 1896, tells of a brother and sister (Louisa and Joe) who, like other siblings, play and disagree. Although typical siblings, the difference is the topics of their disagreements, which tend to focus on the things boys can do that girls cannot. Louisa is discouraged from wearing anything other than a dress, limiting her ability to do cartwheels or learning to ride a bicycle (also off limits for girls). Louisa is determined to ride a bike, even if it means contracting “bicycle face,” a permanent result of scrunching your face and bulging your eyes while trying to balance the bike. Louisa Belinda Bellflower will not be stopped as she works to prove to her brother and boys everywhere that girls can and should ride a bicycle.
Primary Visual Source
The Library of Congress website features a variety of visual primary sources depicting women as a collective part of the late 19th century bicycle frenzy. The bicycle, commonly referred to as the wheel, was an instrumental vehicle of progress for the women’s movement and their fight for voting rights. Globally, women began riding bicycles, finding new freedom in their mobility. With this increased transportation came a greater public presence of women, allowing increased likelihood of their voices to be heard.
Two primary visual sources are: The “new” woman and her bicycle by Frederick Burr Opper and Woman in a room with a bicycle saying to a man and child, “Sew on your own buttons, I’m going for a ride” photographer unknown.
Primary Visual Source: The “new” woman and her bicycle
Primary Visual Source: Woman in a room with a bicycle saying to a man and child, “Sew on your own buttons, I’m going for a ride”
Title: Woman in a room with a bicycle saying to a man and child, “Sew on your own buttons, I’m going for a ride.”
Date Created/Published: 1899, Stereo Copyrighted B. L. Singley
Summary: This printed photograph was doubled and placed on cardboard to create a stereo card for a stereograph machine. A stereograph machine was used to make pictures look three dimensional, similar to an old-fashioned view-master. To learn more about the stereograph, view the video at the What is a Stereograph? webpage of Middlebury College's Museum of Art.
The image on the photograph is of a woman standing in her home with her bicycle beside her. Looking closely, you see she is gesturing for a little boy to take a piece of fabric or clothing from her. Art critics suggest the picture seems staged because the bicycle being held by the woman is very large and does not have the lower crossbar that is typical of a woman’s bicycle. Notice that the woman’s attire in the picture does not support riding a bicycle. However, as more women began using bicycles for transportation, changes in clothing, such as bloomers, allowed them to ride comfortably. Prior to these changes in clothing styles, women were pictured seated sideways to accommodate their long dresses.
Questions for Analysis:
Revisit Born to Ride: A Story About Bicycle Face with students. Before rereading, ask the students to pay close attention to what the women are doing throughout the book. After reading, discuss all of the things the women are doing from the beginning to the end of the text. Begin a conversation about why there might be concern and discouragement from others (men and women) when it comes to women riding bicycles. Ask the students what connections they can make between the photograph and the text. To wrap up the conversation, ask students about potential origins of the “Bicycle Face” affliction. Share the author’s note, “About Bicycle Face” and “From Bicycles to Votes.” To conclude the session, have students work in pairs to complete T-Charts, transcribing their learnings with specific, supporting evidences.
(ca. 1899) Woman in a room with a bicycle saying to a man and child, "Sew on your own buttons, I'm going for a ride"., ca. 1899. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2006683468/.
Harris, B.R. (2010). Blurring borders, visualizing connections: Aligning information and visual literacy learning outcomes. Reference Services Review, 38(4), 523-535. doi: 10.1108/00907321011090700
Lent, R. C. (2016). This is disciplinary literacy: Reading, writing, thinking and doing…Content Area by Content Area. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin SAGE Publications.
Opper, F. B. (1895) The "new woman" and her bicycle - there will be several varieties of her / F. Opper. , 1895. N.Y.: Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2012648801/.
Theule, L. (2019). Born to ride: A story about bicycle face. New York, NY: Abrams Books for Young Readers.
Jennifer Summerlin is an Assistant Professor of Reading at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her research examines construction of knowledge among preservice teacher candidates, supporting literacy best practices within the P-12 classroom, and reading intervention. Jennifer is a member of the 2019 Notables Committee. She can be reached at email@example.com.
The Coretta Scott King Book Awards is an initiative under the Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) of the American Library Association (ALA). CSK Immediate Past-President Dr. Claudette McLinn notes that the Discussion Guides have been created since 2000, and currently all Discussion Guides from 2009 to 2019 are available on the CSK website.
Each Discussion Guide includes summaries, activities and discussion questions, as well as related CSK titles for that year’s CSK Author Award, CSK Author Honor Awards, CSK Illustrator Award, CSK Illustrator Honor Awards, and Steptoe Awards for New Talent (Author and Illustrator), as well as information about the year’s Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award winner.
The CSK Discussion Guides are not the only educational resources available on the CSK website. There are also resources from publishers (Lee and Low) and a link to TeachingBooks.net, a curricular resource for teaching young people’s literature. TeachingBooks was founded by Nick Glass, who is also a member of the CSK Book Awards Executive Committee and Chair of the CSK Membership Committee.
It’s worth noting that Glass is offering TeachingBooks’ “Book and Reading Engagement Kit: Home Edition” for free until September 15 for remote learning. TeachingBooks offers many resources for all CSK Award-winning titles, and these are included in the engagement kit. The resources include original material, interviews, audiobook excerpts, pronunciation guides, interviews and book trailers.
The Coretta Scott King Book Awards website offers a wealth of online material for teaching even beyond the stated educational resources. Whether simply looking through the list of award winning books or reading about the history of the CSK Book Awards, there is so much to learn. And although the 2020 CSK Book Discussion Guide is not yet posted (as a jury member, I contributed to it and look forward to seeing it online), perhaps students might create their own guides to one of the winning titles, like New Kid by Jerry Craft (2020 CSK Author winner) or The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (2020 CSK Illustrator winner)
Editorial Note to CLA Members
In June 2019, the CLA Student Committee organized a Webinar featuring Jonda McNair titled 50 and Fabulous: The Coretta Scott King Book Award. The Webinar is part of CLA's library of Members-Only Content.