2022 CLA Master Class: "Books as Lighthouses: Using Children’s Literature to Illuminate and Provide Hope in the Darkness of Sexual Abuse"
By Lisa Pinkerton, S. Adam Crawley, and Sara K. Sterner
Starting in 1994, the Children's Literature Assembly (CLA) has sponsored a Master Class at the annual NCTE Convention. This session provides K-12 teachers and teacher educators, as well as other members of the organization, the opportunity to gain insight into effective pedagogies for fostering a love of literature across diverse classroom and academic contexts.
The 29th annual Master Class is titled "Books as Lighthouses: Using Children’s Literature to Illuminate and Provide Hope in the Darkness of Sexual Abuse." This year’s session will take place on Saturday, November 19th from 6:00-7:15 p.m. (Pacific) in Anaheim, CA.
The 2022 Master Class is organized around a moderated panel, followed by a discussant led Q&A with the following esteemed authors, illustrator, translator, and editor of children’s literature:
2022 CLA Master Class Contributors
Paula Chase-Hyman is the author of nine middle grade and young adult books. So Done, her critically acclaimed middle grade debut, was named a 2018 Kirkus Reviews Best Book and was followed by two more books in the series: Dough Boys and Turning Point. She is also the author of the young adult series, Del Rio Bay Clique. Co-founder of the award-winning blog, The Brown Bookshelf, Paula is a longtime “advocate for diversifying the type of fiction featuring Black characters that’s highlighted among educators, librarians and parents” (author website).
Kate Messner is a New York Times bestselling author who is “passionately curious and writes books for kids who wonder, too” (author website). She has written numerous award-winning picture books and novels, including The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs (illustrated by Matthew Forsythe), named a CLA 2019 Notable Children’s Book in the Language Arts. She is also the author of numerous fiction and nonfiction series including Ranger in Time and History Smashers. Kate’s middle grade novel, Chirp, was a 2020 New England Book Award finalist. In her blog Countdown to CHIRP, Kate shares all about the writing process behind her novel, Chirp, including actual charts that played an integral role in her revision process.
Mary Kate Castellani is Publishing Director at Bloomsbury Children’s Books and the editor of Chirp (Messner, 2020). In a recent interview about the book and depictions of #MeToo trauma in middle grade literature, Mary Kate emphasized the dedication that she and Kate Messner share in: “addressing these relevant topics in a way that is appropriate for each age level, meeting kids where they are, and ideally preparing them for how to cope with such events” (Maughan, 2020, para. 22). Further, she spoke to the relevance of such books: “Many adults don’t like to think that kids are aware of such challenging subjects, but they are, and we need to equip them with the right knowledge to protect themselves and each other” (para. 22).
MODERATOR AND DISCUSSANT
The 2022 Master Class
The 29th annual CLA Master Class seeks to examine a particular shift in the landscape of children's literature, one that reflects the zeitgeist of the #MeToo movement, which has prompted an increase in the number of middle grade books that address issues of sexual violence (de León, 2020; Maughan, 2020; Robillard et al., 2021). The session will explore how books can nurture healing and hope in readers who have experienced such trauma, as well as provide information and support to protect readers. A panel of book creators (e.g., authors, illustrator, translator, editor) will share how their honest and sensitive stories illuminate the topic of sexual violence.
The following overriding questions will guide the session: How might books with dark subject matter foster hope in readers? And, how might teachers and teacher educators facilitate reader engagement with these vital books? We hope that attendees will leave the session with a more nuanced understanding of the shifting landscape of children's literature relative to the #MeToo movement, along with a deeper level of comfort using these books in classrooms, especially in light of the turbulent times that teachers and teacher educators inhabit relative to censorship.
de León, C. (2020, June 17). Why more children's books are tackling sexual harassment and abuse. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/17/books/childrens-books-middle-grade-metoo-sexual-abuse.html
Maughan, S. (2020, April 13). Eye on middle grade: Editors discuss some of the latest developments in the category. Publishers Weekly, 23-21. Retrieved from https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-book-news/article/83006-eye-on-middle-grade-spring-2020.html
Robillard, C. M., Choate, L., Bach, J., & Cantey, C. (2021). Crossing the line: Representations of sexual violence in middle-grade novels. The ALAN Review, 49(1), 33-47.
Paula Chase-Hyman’s Interview with Reading Middle Grade Blog.
Kate Messner’s Interview with BookPage
Valérie Fontaine’s Interview with Foreword Reviews
Nathalie Dion’s Feature in Canadian Children’s Book News
Shelley Tanaka’s Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith at Cynsations
Lisa Pinkerton (she/her) is the Marie Clay Endowed Chair in Reading Recovery and Early Literacy at The Ohio State University. Her current roles with CLA include serving as a Board Member and Master Class Co-Chair. In addition, she served on NCTE’s Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children committee from 2016-2019.
S. Adam Crawley (he/him) is an Assistant Teaching Professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His current roles with CLA include serving as a Board Member and Master Class Co-Chair. In addition, he is the treasurer of NCTE’s Genders and Sexualities Equalities Alliance (GSEA).
Sara K. Sterner (she/her) is an Assistant Professor at Cal Poly Humboldt and the Leader of the Liberal Studies Elementary Education Program in the School of Education. Her current roles with CLA include serving as a Board Member and Master Class Co-Chair.