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 Emmaline Ellis, Alex Lampp Berglund, and Meghan Valerio, on behalf of the CLA Student Committee
All of us (Emmaline, Alex, and Meghan) are members of the Children’s Literature Assembly Student Committee, and we each bring a variety of experiences as classroom teachers, reading specialists, and teacher educators. In our different contexts, we have witnessed the ways literacy curriculum and praxis have privileged certain voices, while both intentionally and unintentionally silencing and, at times, even harming others. These experiences, coupled with continued historically heated debates on racism, gender equality, immigrant acceptance, (dis)ability rights, and LGBTQ+ activism, led us to plan our second annual CLA Student Committee webinar, entitled “Inclusivity in Curriculum and Pedagogy.” The goal of this webinar was to provide a space for literacy scholars to share their inclusive research and pedagogy and for participants to unpack their own experiences with inclusivity in educational spaces. In this post, we highlight many of the resources and pedagogical practices shared by the panelists, Dr. Desireé Cueto, Dr. Sara Sterner, Dr. Megan Van Deventer, and Dr. Kelly Wissman, that we hope you can implement in your own teaching. CLA Members can access a video recording of the webinar within the members-only portion of the CLA website.
Resources for Fostering Inclusivity
Inspired by the transformative work of the presenters, we have compiled a list of resources that were shared by the panelists that have helped us form our own understandings of inclusivity and foster community in our own inclusive educational spaces in a variety of ways. These resources include educational course texts, children’s and young adult literature titles, authors, podcasts, and online tools and sites.
middle school/young adult literature
Emmaline Ellis is a PhD Student in the Literacy and Learners program at Temple University. She is a member of CLA’s Student Committee.
Alex Lampp Berglund is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia. She is chair of CLA’s Student Committee.
Meghan Valerio is a PhD Candidate in Curriculum and Instruction with a Literacy Emphasis at Kent State University. Meghan’s research interests include investigating literacy from a critical literacy perspective, centering students and 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. She is a CLA Student Committee member.
By Miriam Martinez, on behalf of the CLA Endowment Committee
Then, in 2005 the Endowment was officially launched! The next several years were devoted to the hard work of building Endowment funds to a point that sufficient money existed to sustain this critical work. This hard work came to fruition in 2011 when the first research grant was awarded to Lori Ann Laster for her research on text selection for refugee youth. Since that beginning, the fund has helped to support the research of 12 scholars of children’s literature. Here is just a sampling of some of the exciting work the Endowment has supported:
The Endowment Committee would like to invite you to participate in this important initiative either by helping us continue to grow the Endowment or by applying for the CLA Research Award. (And some of you may want to do both.)
Donations can be made to commemorate a special event, to honor a children's literature enthusiast, or just as an expression of commitment to the work of the endowment. There are two easy ways to donate to the Endowment:
If you are a member of CLA, consider applying for the CLA Research Award. You can find more information about the application process at this link.
Picturebooks Exploring Issues of Poverty
Finally, as a committee focused on providing financial support, and one comprised of children’s literature scholars and educators, we want to offer you a special thank you for your work in promoting children’s literature. Please find below a beginning list of picturebooks focused on poverty and financial issues, an important topic but one that is not often explored in books for children.
Miriam Martinez is a Professor of Literacy Education at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She is chair of CLA's endowment committee.
Books for the First Week of School
By Liz Thackeray Nelson, Lauren Aimonette Liang, and Xenia Hadjioannou
Last week, we invited our readers to share the books, texts, and other media they share with students during the first week of school. Thank you to all who shared their first week texts with us! Readers reported the books they share in their classrooms from elementary through doctoral-level courses! Below we share a few examples of the responses we received, with book titles and the teacher’s explanations of why and how they use the text. Perhaps you may find a new book or two to share with your students this year.
Xenia Hadjioannou is Associate Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the Harrisburg Campus of Penn State. She is Vice President of CLA and co-editor of the CLA Blog.
Lauren Aimonette Liang is Associate Professor at the Deparment of Educational Psychology of the University of Utah. She is Past President of CLA and co-editor of the CLA Blog.
Liz Thackeray Nelson is a doctoral candidate at the University of Utah. She is co-chair of CLA's membership committee and co-editor of the CLA Blog.
By Patricia E. Bandré
Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.”
For approximately four weeks this spring, fourth-grade students at Oakdale Elementary in Salina, Kansas read and discussed, We are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball (Nelson, 2008) as part of a language arts unit. Students found the book highly engaging and the art extraordinary. Numerous discussions occurred as students read, wondered, and conducted research in order to learn more about Negro League players and team owners. Ideas in the book sparked a variety of emotions and prompted numerous conversations about how people treated one another then, how they treat one another today, and what it means to break barriers. When the unit concluded, teachers Joy Fox-Jensen and Mary Plott desired to capitalize on students’ enthusiasm for the book and their interest in sports. They wanted to introduce students to other African American athletes who had broken barriers and pursued their dreams.
In my role as the district reading instructional specialist, I worked with the teachers to plan and conduct a six-day mini-unit. We chose four books for our study: Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball (Bryant, 2020), Playing to Win: The Story of Althea Gibson (Deans, 2007), A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis (de la Peña, 2011), and Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman (Krull, 1996). We intentionally chose to introduce African American men and women who excelled in sports other than baseball and faced barriers in addition to those posed by race; poverty, illness, and physical disabilities provided further challenges for the athletes we selected. We also wanted students to experience a variety of writing styles and different types of illustrations. Finally, we wished to select athletes to whom the students could connect. We wanted them to see how these barrier-breaking athletes valued determination and perseverance, realized the importance of compassion, and understood how seemingly simple actions spoke louder than words. Our goal was to help the fourth graders begin to see how they could become barrier-breakers, too.
Because students demonstrated such a high level of interest in Kadir Nelson’s paintings when reading We are the Ship, we elected to begin the study with a short exploration of book design. I used information from the article Picturebooks as Aesthetic Objects (Sipe, 2001) to help frame our conversations. We are the Ship (Nelson, 2008), along with two classic picturebooks, Where the Wild Things Are (Sendak, 1963) and The Little House (Burton, 1942), served as models. After reading the two picturebooks aloud, we took a focused look at all three books. As part of our discussion, I prompted students to consider how the size and shape of a book might add to its meaning. Students contemplated the image on the dust jacket and cover of each book – were these images the same or different? Why? They looked closely at the endpapers and wondered about the significance of the colors and the images, if there were any. We considered the color palette each artist used and discussed how those colors suited the text and made them feel. Students noticed the different points of view Nelson employed in We are the Ship; individual players appeared to be larger than life, but in the team paintings, each member seemed equally significant. Students greatly admired Nelson’s full-bleed art, but also found the way Sendak (1963) placed frames around his illustrations in Where the Wild Things Are to be intriguing. Students were quick to notice how the size of the frames changed, disappeared, and reappeared as we watched the main character, Max, journey in and out of his imaginary world. Ultimately, this exploration created a heightened sense of awareness and resulted in careful observations, thoughtful questions, and insightful responses about the other books we read.
Over the next four sessions, students interacted with a new book each day. Each initial reading was conducted as a read-aloud or a combination of listening and partner reading. I purposely did not stop to talk about the book during its first reading. Rather, I wanted students to take in the language and art on their own in order to develop a first draft understanding (Barnhouse and Vinton, 2012). Following this process allowed them to come to their own conclusions about the athletes and the barriers faced without the influence of their peers. Instead of talking, students took two sticky notes and recorded one thing they noticed about the book and one fact they learned during the first read. Students shared their “Notice and Learn” notes with a shoulder partner and posted them for others to read. Next, we dove back into each book and revisited specific passages in order to explore the way the authors used language to provide clues as to the personality of each athlete. An organizer modeled after the Reading with Attitude protocol (Buehl, 2014) assisted to facilitate our conversations. As students reread certain passages from each book, they contemplated the athlete’s and author’s emotions and shared how the text made them feel as the reader. Discussions ensued about the language in the text and how it prompted them to infer the presence of these emotions. Additionally, students made specific references to the art in each book and how it affected their response. As students met each new athlete, the comments they shared made it clear that they realized the athletes were different from one another, but connected by common threads
Barnhouse, D., & Vinton, V. (2012). What readers really do: Teaching the process of meaning making. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Buehl, D. (2014). Classroom strategies for interactive learning, (4th ed.). International Reading
Association: Newark, DE.
Sipe, L. R. (2001). Picturebooks as aesthetic objects. Literacy Teaching and Learning, 6(1), 23-42.
Bryant, J. (2020). Above the rim: How Elgin Baylor changed basketball. Illus. by F. Morrison. Abrams
Books for Young Readers: New York, NY.
Burton, V. L. (1942). The little house. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Deans, K. (2007). Playing to win: The story of Althea Gibson. Illus. by E. Brown. Holiday House:
New York, NY.
de la Peña, M. (2011). A nation’s hope: The story of boxing legend Joe Louis. Illus. by K. Nelson. Dial Books for Young Readers: New York, NY.
Krull, K. (1996). Wilma unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph became the world’s fastest woman. Illus. by D. Diaz. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Boston, MA.
Sendak, M. (1963). Where the wild things are. HarperCollins Publishers: New York, NY.
Patricia E. Bandré, Ph.D., is the reading instructional specialist for USD 305 Public Schools, Salina, KS and serves as treasurer for CLA.
Joy Fox-Jensen and Mary Plott are fourth grade teachers at Oakdale Elementary School, USD 305 Public Schools, Salina, KS.
We wish to thank the Salina Education Foundation for funding this project.
It’s a Slam Dunk! Aiming High with Jen Bryant’s Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball
By Donna Sabis-Burns and Amina Chaudhri, on behalf of The Biography Clearinghouse
Please visit The Biography Clearinghouse for an interview with Jen Bryant and a range of critical teaching and learning experiences to use with Above the Rim. Highlighted here are a few teaching ideas inspired by Above the Rim. The full book entry is available at the Biography Clearinghouse.
Literary and Figurative Language
Jen Bryant wrote Above the Rim in prose verse - a form of writing that does not use a rhyme scheme or rhythm but is formatted to look distinctive on the page, and makes use of word and line spacing to create an effect. The reader must carefully follow the punctuation in order to read prose verse fluently rather than pausing at the end of each line. This form also allows the writer to isolate particular sentences, placing them on lines of their own, which can serve to call attention to them. Bryant does a beautiful job in capturing the rich emotion of Elgin Baylor through careful word choice and line spacing.
In her interview, Jen Bryant frames her work as a writer with a quote from the poet, Nikki Giovanni: "Writers don't write from experience, they write from empathy." She adds that she hopes her readers will empathize with Elgin Baylor and understand him in the context of his environment. Above the Rim characterizes Elgin as persistent, humble, brave, and more and as such, can be used to teach about character traits using text evidence.
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.
Amina Chaudhri is an associate professor at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, where she teaches courses in children's literature, literacy, and social studies. She is a reviewer for Booklist and a former committee member of NCTE's Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children.
*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.
Planting Seeds for Professional Involvement with Bonnie Campbell Hill
BY KATHRYN WILL
Winning the 2018 Bonnie Campbell Hill National Literacy Leader Award for my clinical work with preservice teachers in our local schools allowed me to support the attendance of two university students, Emily and Allicia, at the 2018 NCTE conference in Houston. They were astounded by the warm welcome they received at the CLA breakfast that year, the sessions they attended, and of course the free books signed by authors. To say they were gobsmacked would be accurate. Upon our return from the conference, they shared their experience in a student gathering on campus with others where it was well received and created a buzz in the teacher education program for quite a time afterwards. They graduated in the Spring of 2019, accepting their first teaching positions in nearby schools. Because of the positive experience they had at the 2018 conference, they attended NCTE 2019 in Baltimore as seasoned conference attendees, focusing in on their current classroom needs and of course gathering books for their classroom libraries.
After starting a YA book club in the summer of 2019, we continued to meet together virtually throughout the pandemic--sometimes for our book club that grew out of the initial NCTE experience, and other times to navigate classroom or learner challenges. When we met a few weeks ago, I asked them about the initial experience of attending NCTE with me. Emily commented that the experience opened her eyes to the importance of making connections within the profession at a national level. Allicia added that she never would have considered going to something like NCTE if she had not gone with me. It made her dream bigger as a teacher and as a person. They both agreed they will attend again. I am so grateful that winning this award allowed me to plant and nurture the seeds of professional involvement for these teachers in the early stages of their careers. I hope there are opportunities for me to continue this in the future with other preservice teachers.
Catching Up with Quintin: A Bonnie Campbell Hill Literacy Leader Award Update
BY QUINTIN BOSTIC
When he won the award in 2018, Quintin was preparing to teach his first course in elementary writing instruction for undergraduate preservice teachers. Although his time in the Ph.D. program is coming to an end, the doors to opportunities are just beginning to open. Shortly after receiving the Bonnie Campbell Hill Literacy Leader Award, Quintin began to implement his PLC series. The 3-day series supported teacher trainers and teachers in using various strategies to have critical conversations with students through picture books in their classrooms. The professional development program addressed topics like #BlackLivesMatter, LGBTQIA+ families, multilingualism, varying abilities, and more. Attendees of the professional development supported students from preschool to third grade in an inner-city school district in Atlanta, Georgia. A major highlight from the project was that because it was so well received, the project was further funded through a local agency for the continued support of teachers in the local area. Through the Bonnie Campbell Hill Literacy Leader Award, not only was Quintin able to implement the PLC series, but he was also able to attend the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) in Houston, Texas in 2018, attend the Children’s Literature Assembly’s breakfast, and attend the all-attendee event that featured author Sharon Draper. Because of the award, Quintin has gained a platform that has helped him to continue to advance in his academic career.
Quintin is currently wrapping up his Ph.D. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education at Georgia State University. His research focuses on how race, racism, and power are communicated through the text and visual imagery in children’s picturebooks. Additionally, in 2020, Quintin was named co-chair of the National Association for Professional Development Schools (NAPDS) Anti-Racism Committee. The association – which provides professional development, advocacy, and support for school-university partnerships – first established the Anti-Racism Committee in response to racial violence in 2020. As co-chair, Bostic will work to foster a culture of equity and inclusion within the association, and in the communities it supports; create and implement anti-racist policies, practices, and systems; and recommend and implement tools and approaches for continued reflection and progress. “Our goal is to address racism by providing teachers and community partners with the necessary resources to do so,” Bostic said. “These resources vary, ranging from trainings to resources, that can help challenge and overcome racist ideologies that are embedded throughout society.” He also just started a new career with Teaching Lab, in which is serves as a Partnerships Manager.
Quintin is beyond thankful to Bonnie Campbell Hill, her family, the Children’s Literature Assembly, and everyone who makes this award possible. “There are so many people, like me, who would have never had the opportunity to have so many experiences without the support, love and care of people like the Bonnie Campbell Hill Award family. I am so appreciative, and I look forward to seeing what amazing things will come out of this award in the future.”
Kathryn Will is an Assistant Professor of Literacy at the University of Maine Farmington (@KWsLitCrew). She is passionate about sharing the power of children's literature with her students. She is one of the 2018 Bonnie Campbell Hill Award recipients, a member of the 2019 Notables Committee, and current chair of the Notables Committee.
Quintin Bostic is a Ph.D. Candidate at Georgia State University. He is also Partnerships Manager at Teaching Lab and co-Chair of the NAPDS Antiracism Committee. His personal website is https://drquintinbostic.com.
Check out our April 6 Post about the Bonnie Campbell Hill Literacy Leader award and look out for another award recipient update post next week. If you are interested in applying for this year's award, visit the Bonnie Campbell Hill Literacy Leader Award page for the application details.
A Partnership of Poetry and Politics: Carole Boston Weatherford’s Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement
BY JENNIFER M. GRAFF & JOYCE BALCOS BUTLER, ON BEHALF OF THE BIOGRAPHY CLEARINGHOUSE
Our current celebration of poetry as a powerful cultural artifact and the national dialogue about voting rights generated by the introduction of 300+ legislative voting-restriction and 800+ voting-expansion bills in 47 states have inspired a rereading of the evocative, award-winning picturebook biography, Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. Written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, and published by Candlewick Press in 2015, Voice of Freedom offers a vivid portrait of the life and legacy of civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer. Her famous statement, “All my life I’ve been sick and tired. Now I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” (p.18) serves as a testimonial to the psychological and physiological effects of the injustices and violence inflicted upon Hamer and other Black community members in Mississippi. Additionally, Hamer’s statement signifies her tenacity, conviction, and unwavering fight for voting rights, congressional representation, and other critical components of racial equality until her death in 1977.
Below we feature one of two time-gradated teaching recommendations included in the Create section of the Voice of Freedom book entry.
Youth As Agents of Change in Local Communities
Weatherford begins Voice of Freedom with Hamer’s own words: “The truest thing that we have in this country at this time is little children . . . . If they think you’ve made a mistake, kids speak out.” Pairing Hamer’s advocacy detailed in Voice of Freedom with contemporary youth activists, guide students in their exploration of how they can (or continue to) be agents of change in their communities.
To see more classroom possibilities and helpful resources connected to Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, visit the Book Entry at 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, and questions.
Jennifer M. Graff is an Associate Professor in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia where her scholarship focuses on diverse children’s literature and early childhood literacy practices. She is a former committee member of NCTE’s Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction K-8, and has served in multiple leadership roles throughout her 15+ year CLA membership.
Joyce Balcos Butler is a fifth-grade teacher in Winder, Georgia, where she focuses on implementing social justice learning through content areas. She is a National Writing Project Teacher Consultant, a Red Clay Writing Fellow at the University of Georgia, and a member of CLA.
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
An Inquiry of the Outdoors: Contemporary Children’s Picture Books that Feature the Outdoors
BY KATHRYN CAPRINO
How are humans and the outdoors connected? This inquiry question has been answered more acutely for some during COVID. Whereas I am grateful that I could spend time outside daily during quarantine, taking walks with my little boy and rekindling my passion for running, I know many others - for a myriad reasons - were trapped indoors.
In this post, I share three contemporary children’s picture books that will help young readers answer the inquiry question: How are humans and the outdoors connected?
After sharing brief summaries of each text, I provide a few lesson ideas.
Whereas COVID is not mentioned explicitly, the narrator reveals that there was a time when most people went inside. Sharing that humans made the best of their challenging months inside, the text leaves readers with hope of reconnecting with others outside - but not before emphasizing that even though we are all different on the outside, we are all the same on the inside. Echoes of the idea that humans need to be outside seen in Outside In are also seen in Outside, Inside, and this idea that we are all united by something much greater than ourselves links with Swashby and the Sea.
Sharing the Books with Students
Before sharing these three texts with students, pose the inquiry question How are humans and the outdoors connected? Invite them to share the ways in which they feel connected to the outdoors via discussions, written responses, or pictures.
Next, read the texts to students, providing opportunities for during-text discussions and post-text answering of the inquiry question. Ask students to reveal how each text confirms or alters their previous responses.
After reading all three texts, ask students to draw, write, or discuss their response to the inquiry question, using their personal experiences and what they thought about as a result of the three picture books.
Finally, have students engage in an activity that helps them engage with the inquiry question How are humans and the outdoors connected? in personal ways. They may want to create a project that helps keep the outdoors a hospitable place for humans. They might write to the town mayor to share some ideas on roadside trash collection, for example. Other students may pursue a more personal project, such as a drawn or written memoir or children’s picture book about their experiences with being inside and outside throughout the past year.
Perhaps the best lesson idea I have, however, is to let these texts inspire you and your students to go outside. Take an awe walk to find inspiring objects and return to the classroom to discuss or write about them. Set up an observation log in your classroom so students can track what they noticed about the outdoors. Let students draw or paint the outdoors. Or even better yet, truly be outside with them - not outside but really inside as Outside In warns - and play with them.
It is my hope that these three contemporary books that provide the opportunity for us to engage in an inquiry of the outdoors inspire us all to move and think and be outside just a bit more.
Kathryn Caprino is a CLA member, on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Children’s Literature, a blogger at katiereviewsbooks.wordpress.com, and an Assistant Professor of PK-12 New Literacies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. You can follow her on Twitter @KCapLiteracy.