by Kate Narita, introduction by Melissa Stewart
In February, CLA members Mary Ann Cappiello, Professor of Language and Literacy at Lesley University and Xenia Hadjioannou, Associate Professor of Language and Literacy Education at Penn State University, sent a letter signed by more than 500 educators to The New York Times asking the paper to add children's nonfiction bestseller lists to parallel the current fiction-focused lists.
The letter was also published on more than 20 blogs that serve the children's literature community--including this one—and amplified on social media as part of the #KidsLoveNonfiction campaign. (To date, more than 2,100 people have signed it.)
A few weeks later, The New York Times responded, saying it had no current plans to add nonfiction lists at this time. Many people were disappointed by this decision, including fourth-grade teacher and CLA member Kate Narita, who has written the following essay, bravely sharing how the petition changed her thinking.
-- Melissa Strewart
Shattering My Implicit Bias Against Nonfiction by Kate Narita
Then, in January, my son mentioned a book he had read, Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe by Steven Strogatz. “Oh,” I said. “Sounds interesting. Did you read it for your calculus class?”
“Yes,” he said. “And I really enjoyed it.”
Did his statement about enjoying a book wake me up to my implicit bias? No. But I did feel a shift inside me. I was pleasantly surprised and excited because I love talking about books. If he had read something and was excited about it, I could read it and discuss it with him, even if he had only read it because it was a class assignment. Here was a way I could deepen my relationship with him as an adult. Even if it was just a one-time occurrence.
I asked if I could read the book when he was done, and he brought it home the next time he visited.
Fast forward to February break. As my husband and I were packing for a trip to Maui to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, he spotted Infinite Powers in the pile of books I was sorting through on our ottoman and picked it up.
“What’s this?” he asked. When I explained, he asked if he could take it to Hawaii, and I nodded. I hadn’t read it yet because, to be honest, reading a whole book about calculus felt too daunting. Instead, I packed and read three books from Kate Messner’s History Smashers series and Rukhsanna Guidroz’s Samira Surfs.
I also spotted a copy of Kristin Hannah’s Fly Away in our condo. Since I had watched Hannah’s Firefly Lane on Netflix and was listening to The Four Winds on Libby, I couldn’t resist picking up Fly Away, and I devoured it in a day.
As my husband and I sat side-by-side reading on the beach, we talked about Infinite Powers. He told me that while he was enjoying the book, the author gave way too much credit to calculus and not nearly enough to physics.
He was kind of cranky about it. Actually, he was truly irritated. I was surprised that he was having an emotional response to the book, a nonfiction book. It had stirred up passion inside him, even though it wasn’t a novel.
Did his passion wake me up to my implicit bias? Not yet. But I did feel another shift. He was expressing emotion about a book, and I was listening. In the past, it had almost always been me expressing emotion about a novel and him listening.
In our almost thirty-year relationship, I could only think of one other time when he had emoted about a book. It was Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman, which I read because he had read it multiple times and was so excited about it.
When we got back home, I spotted this petition (which you can still sign) on Twitter. Two professors of literacy, Mary Ann Cappiello and Xenia Hadjioannou, had written a letter asking The New York Times to add three children’s nonfiction bestseller lists—one for picture books, one for middle grade, and one for young adults. I signed it because, of course, I fully supported nonfiction writers and readers!
A couple of weeks later, I saw on Facebook that, even though more than 2,000 people had signed the petition, The New York Times had refused to add children’s nonfiction bestseller lists. After a full day of teaching, I was tired, and reading this unfortunate news made me angry. I looked up from my phone.
Across the room, my younger son, who was home on spring break, was reading The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene for fun because he had liked Infinite Powers so much and wanted to keep reading and learning. Next to him, my husband was reading an article about the Green Bay Packers on the internet.
In that instant, a lightbulb clicked on in my mind, and an awareness of my implicit bias washed over me like a tidal wave.
My husband and younger son are readers. They have always been readers.
I just didn’t realize it because narratives and fiction aren’t their jam. But give them nonfiction on topics they find fascinating—math, physics, sports—and they’re all in. They’re curious people who read to learn. They want to know about the world, how it works, and their place in it.
The decisionmakers at The New York Times seem to have their own implicit bias against children’s nonfiction, and as long as they do not include lists highlighting these books, they’re failing to acknowledge the 42 percent of our youth who crave true texts. They’re also failing to open the eyes of adults who raise those kids, thinking they’re not readers.
Maybe we should petition The Wall Street Journal next.
By Kathryn Will and River Lusky
As we emerge from a long winter with the lengthening of days to warm the earth, I am drawn to books that get us thinking about nature–the plant and animal life in the world. As the NCBLA committee will tell you, I love books about nature, and this year many of the books we reviewed for the 2022 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts award list were about the natural world.
For this text set we chose three books that leverage nonfiction, poetry, and a picture book to develop content knowledge, build vocabulary, and encourage divergent thinking about the natural world. They invite readers to be curious about nature in both big and small ways. Teachers can easily deepen and extend the texts through a variety of activities, and we have created a few to get you started.
If you are interested in learning more about how Micah Archer creates her collages check out the two videos below. The first provides a a brief glimpse of her printmaking, and the second offers a much more extensive look into how she creates the collage materials and assembles them for the book.
What's inside a flower and other questions about science and nature
Author Read Aloud. Brightly Storytime is is a co-production of Penguin Random House.
The dirt book: Poems about animals that live beneath our feet
Announcing the 2022 NCBLA list
These are just three of the 774 books the seven members of the Notable Children’s Books in Language Arts book award committee read and reviewed for consideration of selection for the 30-book list created annually. The careful analysis and rich discussions over monthly (and sometimes weekly) Zoom sessions allowed us to create a thoughtful list that meets the charge of the 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, non-fiction, and poetry written for children, grades K-8. The books selected for the list must:
2022 NCBLA Committee members
Kathryn Will, Chair (University of Maine Farmington) @KWsLitCrew
Vera Ahihya (Brooklyn Arbor Elementary School) @thetututeacher
Patrick Andrus (Eden Prairie School District, Minnesota) @patrickontwit
Dorian Harrison (Ohio State University at Newark)
Laretta Henderson (Eastern Illinois University) @EIU_PKthru12GEd
Janine Schall (The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley)
Fran Wilson (Madeira Elementary School, Ohio) @mrswilsons2nd
*All NCBLA Committee members are members of CLA
Kathryn Will is Assistant Professor Literacy at the University of Maine Farmington. She served as Chair of the 2022 Notable Children’s Books in Language Arts committee.
River Lusky is an undergraduate student at the University of Maine Farmington.
By Julie Waugh and Erika Thulin Dawes on behalf of The Biography Clearinghouse.
March is Women’s History month and picturebook biographies are a powerful way to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of women. In the most recent Biography Clearinghouse entry, we explore Victoria Tentler-Krylov’s picture book biography Building Zaha: The Story of Architect Zaha Hadid. As a child, Zaha Hadid was fascinated by aspects of her surroundings that others passed by without observing. Her eye for the beauty in nature developed into a vision for architecture that challenged existing perceptions of what a building could be. In Building Zaha, Victoria Tentler-Krylov describes how these seeds of interest planted in childhood grew into a career and a passionate commitment to an artform. Tentler-Krylov’s water illustrations soar across the page, lifting readers into Zaha’s vision of what humankind’s structures might aspire to be.
In the Biography Clearinghouse entry for Building Zaha, you will find an interview, in which Victoria Tentler-Krylov describes how her own education as an architect influenced her writing of Zaha Hadid’s story. You’ll find teaching ideas that focus on character development, mentoring, and goal setting, as well as ideas that build content knowledge about the relationship between architecture and nature, the design processes of architecture, and women leaders in the field. Like us, you will be inspired by the lessons that author/ illustrator Victoria Tentler-Krylov learned from studying the life of Zaha Hadid: “Trust your own voice. Trust your own vision.”
Here is an excerpt of the teaching ideas in the Biography Clearinghouse entry for Building Zaha:
Exploring Zaha’s Designs
Zaha Hadid became known as “the queen of the curve” in the architecture world. She created buildings with shapes that people thought impossible to build. Invite students to explore, notice, and wonder with Zaha Hadid’s amazing projects:
Another recent children's book biography about Zaha Hadid is The World is Not a Rectangle by Jeanette Winter. Winter’s book focuses heavily on how Zaha Hadid’s work is influenced by the natural world, whereas Tentler-Krylov’s book focuses more on Zaha the person. The paired texts could provide a powerful invitation for students to compare and contrast the different ways in which authors made choices about how to share a person’s life in picture book format.
Breaking Boundaries: Female Architects
Designing for Form and Function: Thinking Like an Architect
Victoria Tentler-Krylov shared how one of her favorite illustrations in Building Zaha is the spread where a young Zaha is the only character in a crowded space who is looking up in a beautiful mosque. Looking closely and wondering can help you think and work like an architect. Looking closely and wondering can also help you focus on form (what a space looks like) in architecture, and how well that form meets function (what is going to happen in the designed space). Form and function are ideas that need to work hand in hand for an architect to create a successful place to live or work.
Some people told Zaha Hadid that form was more important to her than function. She was criticized that her creative, uniquely designed spaces did not use space as well as they could, or did not use space as efficiently as possible. This was part of why, early in her career, people told Zaha that she would only be a “paper architect” - an architect that would only have designs on paper and not made into buildings.
Erika Thulin Dawes is 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.
Julie Waugh teaches 8th grade ELA at Smith Junior High and serves as an Inquiry Coach for Mesa Public Schools. She delights in the company of children surrounded and inspired by books. A longtime member of NCTE, and an enthusiastic newer member of CLA, Julie is a former committee member of NCTE's Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children.
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES
Nonfiction books for young people are in a golden age of creativity, information-sharing, and reader-appeal. But the genre suffers from an image problem and an awareness problem. The New York Times can play a role in changing that by adding a set of Nonfiction Best Seller lists for young people: one for picture books, one for middle grade literature, and one for young adult literature.
Today’s nonfiction authors and illustrators are depicting marginalized and minority communities throughout history and in our current moment. They are sharing scientific phenomena and cutting-edge discoveries. They are bearing witness to how art forms shift and transform, and illuminating historical documents and artifacts long ignored. Some of these book creators are themselves scientists or historians, journalists or jurists, athletes or artists, models of active learning and agency for young people passionate about specific topics and subject areas. Today’s nonfiction continues to push boundaries in form and function. These innovative titles engage, inform, and inspire readers from birth to high school.
Babies delight in board books that offer them photographs of other babies’ faces. Toddlers and preschoolers fascinated by the world around them pore over books about insects, animals, and the seasons. Children, tweens, and teens are hungry for titles about real people that look like them and share their religion, cultural background, or geographical location, and they devour books about people living different lives at different times and in different places. Info-loving kids are captivated by fact books and field guides that fuel their passions. Young tinkerers, inventors, and creators seek out how-to books that guide them in making meals, building models, knitting garments, and more. Numerous studies have described such readers and their passionate interest in nonfiction (Jobe & Dayton-Sakari, 2002; Moss and Hendershot, 2002; Mohr, 2006). Young people are naturally curious about their world. When they are allowed to follow their passions and explore what interests them, it bolsters their overall wellbeing. And the more young people read, the more they grow as readers, writers, and critical thinkers (Allington & McGill-Franzen, 2021; Van Bergen et al., 2021).
Research provides clear evidence that many children prefer nonfiction for their independent reading, and many more select it to pursue information about their particular interests (Doiron, 2003; Repaskey et al., 2017; Robertson & Reese, 2017; Kotaman & Tekin, 2017). Creative and engaging nonfiction titles can also enhance and support science, social studies, and language arts curricula. And yet, all too often, children, parents, and teachers do not know about recently published nonfiction books. Bookstores generally have only a few shelves devoted to the genre. And classroom and school library book collections remain dominated by fiction. If families, caregivers, and educators were aware of the high-quality nonfiction that is published for children every year, the reading lives of children and their educational experiences could be significantly enriched.
How can The New York Times help resolve the gap between readers’ yearning for engaging nonfiction, on the one hand, and their lack of knowledge of its existence, on the other? By maintaining separate fiction and nonfiction best seller lists for young readers just as the Book Review does for adults.
The New York Times Best Sellers lists constitute a vital cultural touchstone, capturing the interests of readers and trends in the publishing world. Since their debut in October of 1931, these lists have evolved to reflect changing trends in publishing and to better inform the public about readers’ habits. We value the addition of the multi-format Children’s Best Seller list in July 2000 and subsequent lists organized by format in October 2004. Though the primary purpose of these lists is to inform, they undeniably play an important role in shaping what publishers publish and what children read.
Adding children’s nonfiction best-seller lists would:
We, the undersigned, strongly believe that by adding a set of nonfiction best-seller lists for young people, The New York Times can help ensure that more children, tweens, and teens have access to books they love. Thank you for considering our request.
Dr. Mary Ann Cappiello
Professor, Language and Literacy
Graduate School of Education, Lesley University
Former Chair, National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Committee, Blogger at The Classroom Bookshelf of School Library Journal, Founding Member of The Biography Clearinghouse.
Dr. Xenia Hadjioannou
Associate Professor, Language and Literacy Education
Penn State University, Harrisburg Campus
Vice President of the Children’s Literature Assembly (CLA) of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), co-editor of The CLA Blog, Founding Member of The Biography Clearinghouse.
Allington, R. L., & McGill-Franzen, A. M. (2021). Reading volume and reading achievement: A review of recent research. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(S1), S231–S238. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.404
Correia, M. (2011). Fiction vs. informational texts: Which will your kindergarteners choose? Young Children, 66(6), 100-104.
Doiron, R. (2003). Boy books, girl books: Should we re-organize our school library collections? Teacher Librarian, 30(3), 14.
Kotaman H. & Tekin A.K. (2017). Informational and fictional books: young children's book preferences and teachers' perspectives. Early Child Development and Care, 187(3-4), 600-614, DOI: 10.1080/03004430.2016.1236092
Jobe, R., & Dayton-Sakari, M. (2002). Infokids: How to use nonfiction to turn reluctant readers into enthusiastic learners. Pembroke.
Mohr, K. A. J. (2006). Children’s choices for recreational reading: A three-part investigation of selection preferences, rationales, and processes. Journal of Literacy Research, 38(1), 81–104. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15548430jlr3801_4
Moss, B. & Hendershot, J. (2002). Exploring sixth graders' selection of nonfiction trade books: when students are given the opportunity to select nonfiction books, motivation for reading improves. The Reading Teacher, 56 (1), 6-17.
Repaskey, L., Schumm, J. & Johnson, J. (2017). First and fourth grade boys’ and girls’ preferences for and perceptions about narrative and expository text. Reading Psychology, 38(8), 808-847.
Robertson, Sarah-Jane L. & Reese, Elaine. (2017). The very hungry caterpillar turned into a butterfly: Children's and parents' enjoyment of different book genres. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 17(1), 3-25.
Van Bergen, E., Vasalampi, K., & Torppa, M. (2021). How are practice and performance related? Development of reading from age 5 to 15. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(3), 415–434. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.309.
If you support the request to add three children's nonfiction bestseller lists to parallel the existing picture book, middle grade, and young adult lists, which focus on fiction, please add your name and affiliation to the signature collection form.
By Mary Ann Cappiello & Donna Sabis Burns, on behalf of the Biography Clearinghouse
“Do the best you can and search out available knowledge and build on it,” said Mary Golda Ross in April 2008. This quote introduces and frames Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer, Cherokee author Traci Sorell’s and Métis illustrator Natasha Donovan’s 2021 picture book biography featured this month on The Biography Clearinghouse.
Known as “Gold” to her family, Mary Golda Ross was a pioneer in multiple ways. A trained mathematician and educator-turned-engineer, she was the first female and the first Native American aerospace engineer in the United States. Mary’s intellect and penchant for problem-solving were invaluable as she helped research and design satellites, missiles, and rockets. Her work, much of which is still classified, was integral to the U.S. development of its aerospace program in the mid-20th century. Like many women entering traditionally male-dominated fields, Mary is considered a “Hidden Figure.” Fortified by her independence and tenacity, Mary carved out historical and professional space that had rarely—if ever—included women and minorities. And in doing so, Mary helped revolutionize our relationship with space.
Independent and tenacious, Mary was the great-great-grandaughter of John Ross, the Cherokee Chief who led his people during and after they were forced to abandon their ancestral lands in the Southeast. Their migration to what is now Oklahoma, is known as the Trail of Tears.
Throughout her career, Mary relied on her Cherokee values for guidance, and she credited her professional success to those values. Sorell uses these values to “bookend” Mary’s story. On the first opening spread, a red box catches the reader’s attention. Within it, Sorell informs the reader that Cherokee values are not written down, but rather passed down through generations of family members. The core values that shaped Mary’s life were “gaining skills in all areas of life (both within and out of the classroom), working collaboratively with others, remaining humble when others recognize your talents, and helping ensure equal education and opportunity for all” (p.2). These values ground the reader and serve as a preview to Mary’s life. At the conclusion of the book, Sorell returns to those values, offering readers the four values in the Cherokee syllabary, a transliteration, pronunciation, and then finally, English translation.
Illustrator Natasha Donovan visually moves the reader through Mary’s life with a series of shifting images digitally rendered, ranging from close-ups of Mary’s classrooms to a bird’s eye view of her travels, zooming out to the larger vistas within her mind as she imagined and designed, zooming in on the many hands around a table working collaboratively to bring these inventions into existence. The illustrations highlight the tensions and opportunities that Mary encounters, and the role she played in an emerging field.
Mary’s unique circumstances prompted her to reach out and mentor many women in science and mathematics across her long career. She traveled to high schools to mentor college bound seniors and advocate education in engineering and mathematics, and also advocated for career opportunities for fellow Native American and Alaska Natives. Across her career, Mary worked closely with so many - from scientists working in secret on cutting edge technology to young adults just beginning to build their professional identities.
So far, 2021 has shown us the power and potential of science, from the COVID-19 vaccines that continue to be distributed across the globe to the ever-changing understanding of the virus’ variants. Scientists have modeled the ways in which their work is always collaborative. In contrast, 2021 has also shown us the power of the extremely wealthy to appropriate science and technology that has been developed for the benefit of the nation. The two richest men in the world, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, turned space travel into their personal pleasure. Was that part of Mary’s vision of interplanetary travel? Or was hers something more equitable, more in line with her Cherokee values of inclusivity and work for the common good?
From the first pages of the book to the last, author Traci Sorell affirms the significance of Cherokee values in Mary Golda Ross’s life. We discuss this in our interview with Traci and refer both to the red box that names Cherokee values on the verso page, as well as the information on Cherokee values in the backmatter. After reading Classified, ask students to share their understanding of what the word “values” means. Then ask students to share their understanding of the Cherokee values that are represented in the book. How do they define them in their own words? Next, ask students to make a list of the values that are important to them. Provide them with an opportunity to talk to one another in pairs or small groups about their values. How are their values similar and different from one another? How are the words they use to describe their values similar and different from one another? After they’ve had a chance to do this, allow them time to consider where their values come from. Are they influenced by the grown-ups in their lives? Their community? Their religion? Are their values influenced by their family cultural heritage(s), race, or ethnicity(ies)? How do their education influence their values, and how do their values influence their education? Finally, ask students to look again at the four Cherokee values discussed in the back matter. What connections do students see between the values discussed in their group and the Cherokee values that guided Mary’s life?
Mary Golda Ross was known for the mentoring work she did, supporting younger women and indigenous women entering the field of STEM. What kind of mentoring exists in your school? In the lives of your students and their families? In your community?
The Space Race as Collaboration
As an aerospace engineer, Mary Golda Ross worked on the top-secret Skunk Works Project of Lockheed Martin. As Sorell writes in Classified, Skunk Works research contributed to the Apollo space missions and the eventual moon walk by U.S. astronauts in 1969. You can show students an example of her work: Planetary Flight Handbook, No. 9, NASA. What other women were involved in Space Race research? After reading Classified, provide time for students to explore these other books about the Space Race.
In Classified, Sorrell notes that “whenever Mary received awards, she always thanked her colleagues because she knew no one person deserved credit for what everyone had done together.” As students explore whichever permutation of texts you select, ask them to consider the ways in which teamwork is represented. In what ways are individuals featured? In what ways is their collective and collaborative work represented? Use this conversation as an opportunity to discuss the process of “doing science” as collaborative rather than singular work. This can also serve as a springboard to critical considerations regarding the ways inventions and scientific breakthroughs are often attributed to specific individuals instead of to the team as a whole, changing our understanding of what makes change possible. Change happens when groups of people work together over time.
To see more classroom possibilities and helpful resources connected to Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer, visit The Biography Clearinghouse. Additionally, we’d love to hear how the interview and these ideas inspired you. Email us at email@example.com with your connections, creations, and questions.
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.
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).
*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.
FOR CLA MEMBERS
BY WENDY STEPHENS
In addition to the ALSC awards described in the previous post, the Young Adult Library Association (YALSA) also designates award-winning and honor books for adolescent literature.
Among the best-known awards for adolescent literature is the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, administered by YALSA. However, there are many other opportunities to learn about exceptional literature for teens. The life and legacy of Margaret A. Edwards are honored through two award designations:
A shortlist of finalists for two of YALSA's flagship awards -- the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award, honoring the best nonfiction books for teens and the William C. Morris Award, which honors a debut book written for young adults by a previously unpublished author, are announced in December, with the winner of each being part of the press conference.
In addition to designating award books, YALSA also compiles book list resources that can aid librarians and teachers in selecting books that appeal to young adults. A decade ago, YALSA moved four of its lists onto The Hub, its literature blog platform, so that youth services librarians involved in collection development could benefit from more real-time input. All four categories post throughout the year, leading to year-end lists reflecting that year's best titles.
Outside the Monday morning announcements, there are myriad other titles to explore. Among those, the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) uses Midwinter to announce its Outstanding International Books (OIB) list showcasing international children's titles -- books published or distributed in the United States that originated or were first published in a country other than the U.S. -- that are deemed the most outstanding of those published during that year. RISE: A Feminist Book Project for ages 0-18, previously the Amelia Bloomer Project, is a committee of the Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT), that produces an annual annotated book list of well-written and well-illustrated books with significant feminist content for young readers.
There are even genre fiction honors. For the past four years, the Core Excellence in Children’s and Young Adult Science Fiction Notable Lists designates notable children’s and young adult science fiction, organized into three age-appropriate categories, also announced at Midwinter.
Next year, we will have another treat to look forward to when the Graphic Novel and Comics Round Table (GNCRT) inaugurates its Reading List.
That's a lot of books! What are the can't-miss titles? I train my students to look for overlaps, like Candace Fleming winning this year for information text across age ranges. What does it indicate when the Sibert and YALSA's Nonfiction Award overlap? When a book is honored by both the Printz and YALSA Nonfiction?
Though the in-person announcement is exhilarating, especially the view from the seats at the front of the auditorium reserved for committee members, the webcast approximates its energy and allows you to share with students in real-time. To make sure you catch all of the lists, follow the press releases from ALA News and on twitter. Until next January!
Wendy Stephens is an Assistant Professor and the Library Media Program Chair at Jacksonville State University.
BY SCOTT RILEY AND MARY ANN CAPPIELLO, ON BEHALF OF THE BIOGRAPHY CLEARINGHOUSE
The nation is rattled by a presidential impeachment trial. The economy is held in the grip of a recession. Black Americans demand an end to racism, redlining, and segregated schools. Women insist on equity in the home and in the workplace, control over their finances and their bodies. 2020? No. 1974.
The votes cast today, on Election Day 2020, along with the millions of votes cast over the last several weeks, will determine the next president and vice president of the United States of America. Today’s votes will also elect all members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 members of the U.S. Senate. How much do our students know and understand about these legislative bodies and the power with which they are endowed? About the people who serve within these institutions?
One small way to begin a conversation about these legislative bodies, the legislative process, and the people who fill those seats is with a reading of What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Ekua Holmes. This 2018 picture book tells the life story of Barbara Jordan, the formidable Congresswoman known for her defense of the Constitution during the 1974 impeachment trial of President Richard Nixon:
Barbara Jordan believed in the Constitution, and she believed in the power of the processes of government to enact change on behalf of the greater good. Throughout What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?, author Chris Barton uses the power and conviction of Jordan’s voice to demonstrate to readers how Jordan worked within the system to advocate for social justice. Through repetition, sentence variety, and precise word choice, Barton captures Jordan’s transition from studious young woman to tireless champion. Ekua Holmes’ mixed-media collages move from intimate close-ups to panoramic views, constantly shifting and changing perspectives to engage the reader in different portraits of Jordan.
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 What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, visit the What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan page on The Biography Clearinghouse.
Additionally, we’d love to hear how these interviews and 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.
If you are interested in receiving notifications when new content is added to the Biography Clearinghouse, you can sign up for new content notices on our website.
Scott Riley is a middle school instructional coach at Singapore American School where he supports professional learning in and out of classrooms and the debut author of The Floating Field: How a Group of Thai Boys Built Their Own Soccer Field (Millbrook Press 2021).
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 ALLY HAUPTMAN
Why do we teach vocabulary? At its core increasing a student’s vocabulary gives that student power. The power to express ideas, opinions, and feelings. The power to find the right words to persuade, inform, or to bring joy to readers. The power to build knowledge and understand complex concepts across disciplines.
To effectively teach vocabulary and empower our students, teachers must provide rich and varied language experiences, learning experiences that connect words within a context, and opportunities to develop word consciousness (Allen, 2014). Students need opportunities to read, write, and talk in authentic ways. Teachers can model how to use words in context, and immerse students in the language of different disciplines. We need to show students how powerful words are in helping us communicate our ideas. We have to show them how to become “word collectors.” We need to teach vocabulary within context, and intentionally put students in situations where they make connections between words and concepts.
One of the most effective ways for students to make connections and construct meaning is to make sure new vocabulary is presented within a meaningful context. This is where excellent children’s literature comes into play. There are so many brilliantly written non-fiction picture books that can be used to teach vocabulary within a context. With students, I refer to these non-fiction books that are accessible to young readers and use text features in interesting ways, as jazzy non-fiction. Students are drawn to these texts because they make the subject fascinating for readers.
One author whose jazzy nonfiction I often use is Jess Keating. She is an author, artist, and zoologist who creates texts that spark curiosity about animals and women in science. In her World of Weird Animals series, she uses photographs, cartoons, and text features in unique and engaging ways. This is what makes her books so appealing to young readers, but as a teacher I am drawn to the complex vocabulary she uses in her writing. Jess Keating books can be used as mentor texts for writing, sparking a myriad of writing possibilities for students as they begin to see creative ways to write nonfiction. Jess Keating books are perfect for modeling a rich array of metacognitive comprehension strategies like determining importance. Jess Keating books are the best for teaching science concepts and related vocabulary within an authentic context.
Cute As an Axolotl: Discovering the World’s Most Adorable Animals
In this text, Jess Keating and David DeGrand present a combination of stunning animal photographs, cartoon animals, and text features that invite readers to learn about some seriously cute creatures. For each animal, Keating lists facts like species name, size, diet, habitat, predators and threats. She also tells the reader strange, interesting facts that leave you wanting to do more research on these adorable creatures.
Learning Experience Using Cute As an Axolotl
Determine the standards, learning goals, and outcomes for an instructional unit.
Begin with your curriculum to integrate content.
Determine areas of the curriculum or unit that require additional resources for students to build conceptual knowledge.
Use texts to build a bridge between students' lived experiences and the school curriculum.
Cunningham, A. E., & Stanovich, K. E. (1998). What reading does for the mind. American Educator, 22, 8-17.
Fleming, J., Catapano, S., Thompson, C. M., & Ruvalcaba Carrillo, S. (2015). More mirrors in the classroom: Using urban children’s literature to increase literacy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Guthrie, J.T., & Wigfield, A. (2000). Engagement and motivation in reading. In M.L. Kamil, P.B. Mosenthal, P.D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of reading research: Volume III (pp. 403-422). New York: Erlbaum.
Reynolds, R.E., Taylor, M.A., Steffensen, M.S., Shirey, L.L., & Anderson, R.C. (1982). Cultural schemata and reading comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 353-366.
Margaret Osgood Opatz is a doctoral student at the University of Utah in Educational Psychology. Her studies include reading, literacy, and linguistics. She is a past recipient of the CLA Bonnie Campbell Hill National Literacy Leader Award.
Supporting PreK-12 and university teachers as they share children’s literature with their students in all classroom contexts.
The opinions and ideas posted in the individual entries are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of CLA or the Blog Editors.
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