BY MARY ANN CAPPIELLO on behalf of The Biography Clearinghouse
As we approach the final quarter of 2020, fires rage along the West Coast. Many regions of the United States face drought conditions. Gulf communities are inundated by Hurricane Sally while a string of storms line up in the Atlantic, waiting their turn. The impact of climate change is evident.
COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on our lives, our health. We bear witness to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on minoritized groups, including Black and Latinx communities, Native Americans, and the elderly.
Across America, Black Lives Matter protests carry on, demanding that our nation invest in the essential work necessary to achieve a more perfect union through racial justice.
In 2020, we remember moments of historic change, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
The intensity of this moment can’t be denied. It’s demanding. It’s exhausting. Whether you are a teacher, librarian, or university faculty member, you are likely teaching in multiple new formats and modalities, facing daily logistical challenges. Caregivers also face new hurdles in supporting young people’s learning.
How do you meet the needs of students and the needs of this moment in history? How do you find hope in literature?
Perhaps one way is to turn to the people of the past and the present who are working on the edges of scientific knowledge. Or, to turn to the people of the past and the present who have acted as champions of social justice. Their life stories offer young people models of agency and action, blueprints for change.
To that end, The Biography Clearinghouse shares 20 biographies for 2020, a list of recent picturebook and collected biographies to connect with the challenges of the moment. This list is not comprehensive. It is simply a starting place. We hope these recently published biographies of diverse changemakers can become part of your curriculum or part of your read aloud calendar, in-person or over video conferencing software.
Biographies About Scientists
Biographies About Champions for Change
If you have any picture book or chapter-length biographies or collected biographies for young people that you would like to recommend, please email us at email@example.com. We’re also interested in hearing more about how you’re using life stories in the classroom this year.
Mary Ann Cappiello teaches courses in children’s literature and literacy methods at Lesley University, blogs about teaching with children’s literature at The Classroom Bookshelf, a School Library Journal blog, and is a former chair of NCTE’s Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction K-8.
By Jennifer Graff and Courtney Shimek on behalf of the Biography Clearinghouse
As shared in our initial Biography Clearinghouse post, we are committed to showcasing how biographies can help connect youths with each other and the world. Offering curricular possibilities that are easily adaptable to grade level, time, and other contexts and providing “behind-the-scenes” content from biography creators are central components of our commitment.
In the spirit of returning to school and the desire to amplify the historical achievements of Black people in the U.S., we showcase the story of someone committed to justice and equity her entire life. “A child of New York City’s striving class of Blacks in the mid-1800s" (p.5) whose ideals were to “Aim high! Stand tall! Be strong! -- and do!” (p.5); a girl whose mother was “an ace operator for the Underground Railroad” (p.21); and an educator who wrote, “I never forgot that I had to sue for a privilege which any but a colored girl could have without asking” (p.36). Thus, our first featured biography on the Biography Clearinghouse website is Tonya Bolden’s award-winning Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl.
Bolden felt compelled to write about Maritcha after coming across her memoir at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Bolden’s rich, descriptive language and use of primary and secondary sources illuminate the life and experiences of Maritcha Rémond Lyons and her family in New York City during the latter half of the 19th century. Readers discover what life for Blacks was like in New York City, witness the terror and violence of the Draft Riots in 1863, and experience the fight for education and equal treatment. Bolden’s discussion of her research and writing process in the front and back matter as well as Maritcha’s perseverance, determination, and legacy inspired us to interview Bolden and imagine how we could incorporate this powerful biography into our classrooms.
Operating within our Investigate, Explore, and Create model, we designed teaching ideas geared toward literacy and content area learning as well as opportunities for socio-emotional learning and strengthening community connections.
Getting to Know Your Community Leaders
Community networks were central to Maritcha’s story as well as her and her family’s accomplishments. The importance of community networks is still present today. But how often do we have opportunities to delve deeper into the community networks that help us survive, if not thrive?
By investigating biographers’ research and writing processes and connecting people and historical events to our modern lives, we hope to motivate change in how readers engage with biographies, each other, and the larger world. To see more classroom possibilities and helpful resources connected to Marticha: A Nineteenth Century American Girl, visit the Biography Clearinghouse. Additionally, we’d love to hear how the interview and these ideas inspired you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your connections, creations, questions, or comment below if you’re reading this on Twitter or Facebook.
Jennifer M. Graff is an associate professor at the University of Georgia, the current past-president of CLA, and a former committee member of NCTE’s Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children.
Courtney Shimek is an assistant professor at West Virginia University and has been a member of CLA since 2015.
BY JEANNE GILLIAM FAIN
Reflecting on the 2020 NCBLA List, our seven-member committee believes in the influence of each individual book and the power of the books grouped together to offer another layer of meaning. After reviewing over 400 titles with 2019 copyright dates appropriate for readers in K-8th grade, the members of the 2020 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts Committee met online to decide upon our final list of 30 titles. We read books multiple times and learned from each other as we carefully considered the craft of each book.
In this post, I am going to highlight two picture book biographies from the 2020 NCBLA List: Soldier for Equality: Jose´de la Luz Sáenz and the Great War (2019) and Feed your mind: A story of August Wilson (2019).
Tonatiuh, D. (2019). Soldier for Equality: Jose´de la Luz Sáenz and the Great War. New York, NY: Abrams Books for Young Readers, unpaged.
Bryant, J. (2019). Feed your mind: A story of August Wilson. (C. Chapman, Illus.). New York, NY: Abrams Book for Young Readers, unpaged.
Golden Line Strategy & Flip Grid
Both picturebooks feature high-quality language and there are many golden lines, lines that really resonate with the reader, within these texts. The golden line strategy involves the reader choosing a specific line from the picture book biography that causes the reader to pause, ponder, reflect, and/or question the text.
The line should purposely connect with the reader. Readers can choose the golden line from the text and post responses on Flipgrid.
Using flipgrid, the reader can record the reading of the golden line. The teacher can post invitational questions on the flipgrid. Readers can create their own response or answer one of the invitational questions and post on flipgrid. Readers can listen to their peers' golden line responses and post a response back.
Meet the Notables Committee
Jeanne Gilliam Fain is s a professor at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee and Chair of the 2020 Notables Committee.
BY GRACE ENRIQUEZ & DENISE DÁVILA
In the emergency shift to remote learning, educators and parents sought and found a plethora of video read-alouds and digital libraries of children’s books. This heartened us, as these resources offered access to reading material that many children wouldn’t be able to obtain otherwise.
Now that the school year is winding down, and the initial rush to cobble together online books has abated, we take a moment to reflect on the range of online books and resources available for children. Specifically, as educators committed to social justice, we wondered where we could turn to (a) continue sharing children’s literature with our students to support our goals of diversity, inclusion, and equity, and (b) learn more about recently published youth literature created by and for members of minoritized groups. It wasn’t surprising that what is currently available online reflects the massive gap in books about, for, and by diverse communities and underscores the greater need for more diverse books for children overall. In an attempt to close that gap and promote understanding about why diverse books matter--especially now during this global pandemic and in light of the systemic racism, police brutality, and health disparities that our country is currently facing--we have curated a list of online professional guides, blogs, conversations, and other resources.
WEBSITES, BLOGS, & PODCASTS - IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER
Grace Enriquez is a Professor of Language and Literacy at Lesley University and a past recipient of the CLA Research Award.
Denise Dávila is an Assistant Professor of Language and Literacy Studies at the University of Texas, Austin and a CLA member.
BY THOMAS CRISP, MARY NAPOLI, VIVIAN YENIKA-AGBAW, & ANGIE ZAPATA
Changing the Stories We Share: Transforming the Children’s Literature Landscape
AS PROFESSORS OF EDUCATION, literacy, and children’s and young adult literature, we value the unique position that the Journal of Children’s Literature (JCL) occupies in the field, bridging theory and practice by publishing research-based and theoretical manuscripts that have immediate implications for the ways in which children’s books are shared in elementary and middle-grade classrooms and discussed in communities outside of the classroom.
With the November 2015 approval of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) “Resolution on the Need for Diverse Children’s and Young Adult Books,” JCL is committed to the recognition of diverse voices; to the support of emerging Indigenous, Black, and People of Color (IBPoC) scholars and researchers; and to excellence in interdisciplinary research and scholarship in the field of children’s literature. Therefore, we welcome submissions that center literature studies in relation to issues of social justice and equity, representations of populations that have been historically marginalized or underrepresented in children’s texts and culture, and the intersections between popular culture and identity.
Our team shares a commitment both to children’s literature and the field of education. We understand how children’s texts contribute to learning and the development of critical literacies and also serve as powerful cultural artifacts that inform the ways readers view and understand themselves and the world in which they live. We believe that all of us concerned with children’s texts (e.g., teachers, teacher educators, librarians, researchers) must attend to the content of children’s books as literary, cultural, and political objects.
About Our Team
Generally speaking, our professional work is grounded in theories of reader response, critical multiculturalism, and culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogies, and is informed by research and scholarship in education, literary, and cultural studies. Here and elsewhere, the co-editors are listed alphabetically. We are, however, a team of co-editors with shared responsibilities. The order of editors’ names does not indicate any sort of rank.
Our Work with JCL
Like so many other readers, our understanding of the field of children’s literature has been shaped and informed by the articles published in JCL, selected, refined, and coordinated by editorial teams including, most recently, Donna Adomat, Karla Möller, and Angela Wiseman; Jonda McNair, Miriam Martinez, and Sharon O’Neal; and Cyndi Giorgis, April Bedford, and Jennifer Fabbi. During our time as editors, we hope to carry on the tradition of excellence cultivated by these and all other editors of the Journal of Children’s Literature.
Our team is committed to building upon the work of previous editors by bringing together master teachers, recognized scholars and researchers, and emerging voices (e.g., new scholars, doctoral students) across disciplines as contributors to JCL. We recognize that under the guidance of previous editorial teams, the theoretical content of JCLhas increased. We view this shift as particularly important for teachers and teacher educators in the current context of high-stakes testing (e.g., the edTPA), educational initiatives (e.g., the Common Core State Standards), and the “deprofessionalization” of teachers and the teaching profession. Through JCL, we want to foreground the attention to reader response, critical literacies, critical multiculturalism, and social justice.
We will continue to center scholarship and research and explore how theory can guide the ways in which researchers, teachers, teacher educators, and librarians view and explore children’s literature. We plan to make JCL relevant to both educators and scholars by publishing practical yet scholarly pieces that allow readers to think deeply about children’s literature (including visual and multimodal texts) and how it can directly influence the lives of children in their classrooms. To this end, during our tenure as editors, JCL will include the following features:
Finally, as we transition the journal online, our team is committed to making all past issues of JCL available to members of the Children’s Literature Assembly. We are currently scanning all past issues of JCL and its predecessors (e.g., Ripples) and will be making those available in the Members Only section of the Children’s Literature Assembly website. We are grateful to CLA historian Dr. Amy McClure for entrusting us with the assembly’s copies of these archival materials. We are also indebted to Dr. Evie Freeman, who provided us with her personal copies of JCL for use in our scanning.
We would like to thank the following individuals and institutions for their support of our work with the Journal of Children’s Literature:
Adichie, C. N. (2009, July). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story/transcript
Short, K. G. (2012). Story as world making. Language Arts, 90(1), 9–17.
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.
BY ALLY HAUPTMAN
1. Choose a text. It might be a brilliantly written and illustrated picture book, an excerpt from a middle grades or YA novel, or even an interesting infographic.
2. Share the text with your students and model what writing ideas you have based on this text.
3. After reading, ask the questions, “What writing ideas do you get from this text? What are the possibilities you see as a writer?”
4. Get out of the way and let kids write and create!
5. Give students time to share and learn from each other.
That’s it...five steps that lead to important discussion and writing possibilities.
The following is an example of this writing lesson in action with two of my own children. I started by reading Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai. The book begins with Malala talking about a television program she used to watch. The show’s main character was a boy with a magic pencil who Malala saw as a hero, always helping others. She dreamed of having her own magic pencil. She goes on to tell her story of fighting for girls’ education, realizing that she really did have a magic pencil all along. She was able to change the world with her pencil as she fought for educational equality. The last line in the book reads, “One pen, one teacher, one student can change the world.”
Here is the key to this lesson, and this is how I get out of the way of their creativity. I asked my children to write for ten minutes about what ideas they got from Malala’s Magic Pencil. It is as simple as that. I did not give them my prompt that might be presented from this book such as, “What would you do with a magic pencil?” I let them figure out how this book would be a mentor text for their own writing. The beauty of presenting a text and then letting students figure out their own writing possibilities is that they bring their background knowledge, voice, and writing style and combine it with the author’s ideas from the text presented. When you present a mentor text and ask the students to see the writing possibilities, the variety is astounding.
Just with my own daughters, my fifth grader, who is the youngest and always trying to prove herself to her sisters, wrote about a magic tree. In her story, no one believes her that this tree is magic and she hatches a plan to show everyone that she is right. She brought in her ideas and showed strong voice. My eighth grade daughter decided to write about the Infiniti Pen. It is worth mentioning that all of my daughters are obsessed with Marvel movies. So, the Infiniti Pen was inspired by Thor’s hammer in that only the worthiest person in the village could pick up the pen because of its persuasive powers. In this piece, my daughter chose to bring in her own voice and combine Marvel with Malala’s ideas. These writers were able to choose their ideas and use their voices. When we present possibilities through mentor texts, readers also begin to read like writers.
Try it. Read a book and ask your students to find writing possibilities, to write for ten minutes and see where it may lead!
The following list includes texts I have used to spark writing ideas over the past few years with teacher candidates, K-12 students, and my own children.
25 books with endless possibilities…
After the Fall by Dan Santat
Animals by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins
Bookjoy, Wordjoy by Pat Mora, illustrated by Raúl Colón
Camela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson
Claymates by Dev Petty, illustrated by Lauren Eldridge
Coco: Miguel and the Grand Harmony by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Ana Ramírez
Cute as an Axolotl by Jess Keating, illustrated by David DeGrand
Drawn Together by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat
Dude! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Dan Santat
Dreamers/Sonadores by Yuyi Morales
Friends and Foes: Poems About Us All by Douglas Florian
Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Love by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Loren Long
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, illustrated by Kerascoёt
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael López
Nope! by Drew Sheneman
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López
The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague by Julia Finley Mosca, illustrated by Daniel Rieley
The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
Water Land by Christy Hale
What Makes a Monster? by Jess Keating, illustrated by David DeGrand
Wild World by Angela McAllister, illustrated by Hvass & Hannibal
Ally Hauptman is a CLA Board Member and is the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee. She is an associate professor at Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN.
Image by Tookapic from Pixabay
BY JANET K. OUTLAW
Experiencing online education is a completely different experience from in-person teaching and learning. Simply transferring what you would normally do to an online platform doesn’t offer the same kind of experience. During this time of social distancing, I’ve been particularly interested in thinking about platforms that still allow teachers and students to engage in literacy in socially participative ways.
One platform that is really interesting for students to share out responses to children’s literature is Flipgrid. It is a great way for all children, or college students, to share their experiences, their learning, and reflections! As the teacher, you can add members of your class to Flipgrid and ask them to share out about what they’re reading at home. Since children have varying accesses to high-speed internet or media devices, I also like Flipgrid because it can be used on a tablet or mobile phone. It’s free to create an account and join. It offers wonderful learning opportunities, where each student can highlight an amazing new book they read, what they may have personally connected to in the story, or how they felt while reading it.
I’m not a technologically savvy person at all, but Flipgrid is very user-friendly. I first used it a couple of years ago in an online graduate course. It helped the course to feel more socially engaged than typical online courses. Watching classmates’ videos and hearing about their experiences brought the class to life in a way online discussion boards just don’t. If it’s your first time using Flipgrid, below is a brief tutorial video to show you how to set it up as an instructor.
Once you have gotten your account and topic set up, you can share it with your students for a variety of different discussions. One great idea would be for every student to give a book talk of a new children’s book they read at home!
As mentioned in an earlier blog post, there are several resources for free access to children’s books right now:
Some of my favorite texts that are available on Epic are A Different Pond (by Bao Phi, Illustrated by Thi Bui) and We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga (by Traci Sorell, Illustrated by Frané Lessac). A Different Pond touches on themes of immigration, loss from war, and family pride. We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga prompts you to think again about all of the people and things in your life you are grateful for.
These are just a couple of books you can recommend to your students or allow them the choice to read a book of interest to them! Using Flipgrid, you can have discussion question prompts to guide students through their book talk, such as:
Janet K. Outlaw is a member of the CLA student committee. She is a doctoral candidate in Literacy and English Language Arts at North Carolina State University.
BY JEANNE GILLIAM FAIN
These are hard times. Many of us are scrambling to figure out a schedule that keeps us all from losing our minds. One important part of your schedule should definitely include the power of the read aloud. This is a wonderful time to facilitate reading aloud digitally. There has never been an easier time to get to know some of the fantastic authors that are online. It would be easy to send your students a link and have them check out a favorite author (provided that they have online access). Many authors are spending valuable time reading online via YouTube, their websites, Instagram, and there are even author posts via twitter. These digital resources were created by the author and read by the author. As a reminder, it’s completely fine to read books aloud in a classroom or library setting but the rules change when it comes to a digital platform. So be wary of reading books online to your students*. Here are a few of my favorite authors and some of their websites.
Kwame Alexander is a poet and educator. He is the author of 32 books. He is known for his energetic approach to making poetry come alive in his writing. His website includes various read alouds and tips for teaching in the home.
* Creating a recording of reading aloud a published work is subject to copyright law. Sharing copyright-protected work via a public platform and/or monetizing your recording is not allowed. Sharing a read-aloud via a Drive link you post only to your own classes is generally allowable under Educational Fair Use. However, posting to something like YouTube (which is by default indexed and potentially searchable) is not. The story Publishers Adapt Policies To Help Educators published in the School Library Journal (SLJ, March, 2020) offers some helpful guidance as to how children’s publishers have temporarily altered some of their policies to support teaching in the context of COVID-19
BY ADAM CRAWLEY
Before becoming a teacher educator, I taught in elementary public schools for twelve years. The affordances of technology – particularly in connection to literacy and literature – have long been an interest of mine. While I’ve always aimed to stay current with what’s available and to consider increasingly innovative, meaningful, and critical use, I have gleaned much from countless others who are generously sharing resources via social media and other networks…particularly during these past few days and weeks with shifts in instruction due to COVID-19. While an abundance of online children’s literature resources is available – and resources continue to grow from educators, librarians, authors, illustrators, and publishers – Epic! has been particularly helpful in my work teaching a children’s literature course for pre-service teachers at Oklahoma State University.
For those unfamiliar with Epic, it provides a vast collection of children’s literature including picturebooks, chapter books, and graphic novels. As stated on the site’s homepage, users can “instantly access 35,000 eBooks, learning videos, quizzes and more for K-5.” Many of the books available are recent publications and award/honor recipients. The site includes books diverse in representation (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, social class, language, etc.) and genre. Just a few of the many books available include El Deafo (Bell, 2014), When Aidan Became a Brother (Lukoff, 2019), and The Princess and the Warrior (Tonatiuh, 2016). One of my particular favorites is the bilingual picturebook Sora and the Cloud (Hoshino, 2011), exquisite with its soft mixed media illustrations and Japanese translation.
In addition to digital versions of printed books, the site includes audiobooks and “read-to-me” books with the option to add text highlighting. I emphasize to the pre-service teachers the importance of such features for emergent readers.
There are numerous ways to explore what’s available in Epic. Users can type a title, author, illustrator, or topic into the search bar; hover over “Explore” in the menu to see options for various subject areas (such as “narrative nonfiction” in English Language Arts or “geometry” in Math); or browse curated collections by other users. Educators can also add their students – whether K-12 or beyond – and assign books to them within the site.
As I want the pre-service teachers to have access to and use this resource beyond our semester together, I encourage them to create their own free account as an educator. Educators can create an Epic! for Educators account.
Adam Crawley is Assistant Professor of Literacy Education at Oklahoma State University. He is also Co-chair of CLA's 2021 Master Class.