BY DONNA SABIS-BURNS
We are obligated to educate our youth with a clear lens and to teach the richness of realistic, authentic, and contemporary literature for children and young adults. We need to promote books where Indigenous characters are up front and visible, not hidden or pushed aside. We want to highlight in a bold, distinguishable manner characters and stories that unveil and promote the beauty of diverse literature written/illustrated by and for Native Nations (also called Indigenous people and used interchangeably here when the specific Nation is not known), and all other marginalized groups.
The movements of #OwnVoices and #WeNeedDiverseBooks have elevated the bar by offering a deeper focus and expanded landscape for celebrating the intricacies that Native storytelling brings to the table. Much too often, books featuring Indigenous people are only pulled off the shelf in October (Columbus) and November (Thanksgiving/Native Heritage Month). Well, it is March/April and I am pleased to share with you some resources you may want to check out and bookmark this spring to break that cycle. This blog post features a few rich and informative web pages, the American Indian Literature Awards (AILA), a shout out to an award-winning #OwnVoices book, and other informative and fun resources that highlight the resilience, authenticity, and beauty in literature through a kaleidoscope of traditions representative of the vast diversity across Indian Country.
Native Cultural Links
What is impressive about this site is its refreshing approach to much-needed stories about Indigenous, contemporary young heroes and heroines. These heartfelt accounts are reflective of the many different Nations of a modern United States and Canada. This is a breath of fresh air because it does not perpetuate the notion that Indigenous peoples are not around anymore. Do not get me wrong, there is a definite need for authentic, truthful history stories of Native Nations, but it is truly wonderful to be able to share a good story about real time people in real time situations in a modern setting. This is a new resource that is just getting off the ground and it already has some exquisite stories to share with you.
Oyate.org is a small but mighty Indigenous organization working to share the life and histories of Indigenous people with the utmost level of honesty and integrity. This is a resource that serves as a portal into the past and is reflective of today’s society where diverse, #ownvoices books are most necessary. Oyate, appropriately named after the Dakota word for “people,” believes that the world is a healthier place when there is a better understanding and respect for one another and when history is truthfully acknowledged. They aim to distribute literature and learning materials by Indigenous authors and illustrators, provide critical evaluation of books and curricula with Indigenous themes, and offer workshops “Teaching Respect for Native Peoples.” They also have a small resource center and reference library that can be very useful for any educator or parent (or youth for that matter). Since the pandemic, the store portion of the site is temporarily not working at full capacity, but there are many other fine choices for you to peruse and enjoy.
We cannot mention websites about literature featuring Indigenous people without showcasing the American Indians in Literature (AICL) website. Established by Dr. Debbie Reese of Nambé Pueblo, and later joined by Dr. Jean Mendoza as co-editor, the AICL website provides a critical analysis of the presence of Indigenous peoples in children's and young adult books and so much more. This website is like walking into a bakery with so many wonderful choices it is hard to decide what to try first. It has been around for 15 years and is most certainly more than just a place to find a list of best books. You can discover Indigenous authors and illustrators in the Photo Gallery section, or maybe you’d rather learn tips for creating instructional materials featuring different Native nations. You can even research what books you should NOT be sharing out there. It is really a gem of a resource.
AILA Youth Literature Award
Did you know there is an award specifically for literature featuring Indigenous people? Since 2006, the American Indian Library Association (AILA) biennially considers the finest writing and illustrations by Indigenous peoples of North America for the AILA Youth Literature Award. AILA identifies and honors works that “present Indigenous North American peoples in the fullness of their humanity.” Winners and Honor Books are selected in the categories: Best Picture Book, Best Middle Grade Book, and Best Young Adult Book. If you ever need a resource for choosing quality literature, make sure you visit the American Indian Youth Literature Award web page.
For those not familiar with this organization, AILA is an affiliate of the American Library Association and it is devoted to disseminating information about Indigenous cultures and languages to the library community and beyond.
Check out the video for the 2020 Award winners.
Did you know?
Congratulations to illustrator Michaela Goade (Tlingit) for her 2021 Caldecott Award winning book, We are Water Protectors (2020), authored by Carole Lindstrom (Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe). Goade is the very first Indigenous winner of this prestigious award. With Earth Day around the corner, this would be a fabulous book to share. There is even a We are Water Protectors Activity Kit!
Read Native 2021 Reading Challenge
The “American Indian Library Association invites you to participate in the inaugural reading challenge. With this challenge we support and recognize our Indigenous authors, scientists, legislators, storytellers, and creators throughout the year, not just during the national Native American Heritage month.” Here is a fun reading challenge to engage readers of all ages.
Throughout the year, find and read books and publications by and about Native Americans; visit tribal websites; search peer reviewed scholarly journals; visit Native-owned bookstores; and check with Native librarians for the best sources for learning more about Native Nations and Indigenous people around the world.
Donna Sabis-Burns, Ph.D., an enrolled citizen of the Upper Mohawk-Turtle Clan, is a Group Leader in the Office of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of Education* in Washington, D.C. She is a Board Member (2020-2022) with the Children's Literature Assembly, Co-Chair of the 2021 CLA Breakfast meeting (NCTE), and Co-Chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity Committee at CLA.
*The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Education. No official endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of any product, commodity, service, or enterprise mentioned herein is intended or should be inferred.
BY 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 WENDY STEPHENS
This post is the first in a 2-part series by Wendy Stephens discussing the rich landscape of book awards announced over the winter months. In this first post, Wendy focuses on ALSC awards and awards by ALA affiliates recognizing books for children or books for a wide spectrum of age groups. The second post, which will be published next week, will present awards for YA literature administered by YALSA, as well as several other notable awards.
When we talk about budgeting for materials, I always advise my school librarian candidates to be sure to save some funding for January. No matter how good their ongoing collection development has been throughout the year, there are always some surprises when the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards (YMAs) roll around, and they'll want to be able to share the latest and best in children's literature with their readers. These are the books that will keep their collections up-to-date and relevant.
From our own childhoods, we always remember the "books with the medals" -- particularly the John Newbery for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature and the Randolph Caldecott for the most distinguished American picture book for children. These books become must-buys and remain touchstones for young readers. In 2021, Newbery is celebrating its one hundredth year. Some past winners and honor books are very much a product of their time, and many of those once held in high esteem lack appeal today.
For those of us working with children and with children's literature, the new books honored at Midwinter offer opportunities to revisit curriculum, update mentor texts, and build Lesesneian "reading ladders." Each award committee has its own particular award criteria and guidelines for eligibility, and its own process and confidentiality norms.
Every year, the YMAs seems to be peppered with small surprises. Does New Kid winning the Newbery means graphic novels are finally canonical? Is Neil Gaiman an American? What about all the 2015 Caldecott honors, including the controversial That One Summer? Did the Newbery designation of The Last Stop on Market Street mean you can validate using picture books with older students? How does Cozbi A. Cabrera's much-honored art work resonate at this historical moment?
In Horn Book and School Library Journal, Newbery, Caldecott and Printz contenders are tracked throughout the year in blogs like Someday My Printz Will Come, Heavy Medal, and Calling Caldecott. Other independent sites like Guessing Geisel, founded by Amy Seto Forrester are equally devoted to award prediction. Among librarians and readers, there are lots of armchair quarterbacks, and conducting mock Newbery and Caldecotts, either among groups of professionals or with children, have become almost a cottage industry. There are numerous how-tos on that subject, from reputable sources like The Nerdy Book Club and BookPage. But there are numerous other awards announced at ALA Midwinter almost simultaneously that deserve your attention, too.
Among the Association for Library Services for Children (ALSC) awards are: the Robert F. Sibert Medal, the Mildred L. Batchelder Award, the Geisel Award, the Excellence in Early Learning Digital Media Award, and the Children's Literature Legacy Award.
Aside from the award winners, each year annual ALSC Children's Notable Lists are produced in categories for Notable Children's Recordings, Notable Children's Digital Media, and Notable Children's Books. If you want to see the machinations behind the designation, those discussions are open to the public this year via virtual meeting links.
Outside of ALSC, many of ALA’s affiliates have their own honors for children's literature. These include the Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) which sponsors the Coretta Scott King Book Awards; the Association of Jewish Libraries which sponsors the Sydney Taylor Book Awards; and REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking which sponsors the Pura Belpré awards. In addition to these affiliates, others such as the Asian/Pacific American Librarian Association and the American Indian Library Association also present awards.
The awards are always evolving to reflect the abundance of literature available for young people. Like the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Asian/Pacific American Librarian Association awards, the American Indian Youth Literature Awards were first added to the televised YMA event in 2018. And this year was the first year for inclusion for a new Young Adult category for the Pura Belpré.
Two awards of particular significance are the Stonewall Book Award – Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature Awards are given annually to English-language works found to be of exceptional merit for children or teens relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience, and the Schneider Family Book Awards, honoring authors or illustrators for the artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences, with recipients in three categories: younger children, middle grades, and teens.
Wendy Stephens is an Assistant Professor and the Library Media Program Chair at Jacksonville State University.
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