By Suzanne Costner
I headed to Houston in November 2018 to attend the NCTE Annual Convention and moderate a panel presentation for a group of children’s nonfiction writers. I was also looking forward to the Children’s Book Award Luncheon, never realizing that it would change my life. As the presentation of the year’s winners was winding down, an announcement was made encouraging attendees to apply for a place on one of the award committees. My sister nudged me and whispered, “You could do that.” Two months later, I was beginning my term on the Orbis Pictus committee and immersing myself in children’s nonfiction.
From January 2019 through December 2021, we read over 1,300 books on topics ranging from amoebas to world history. As we reviewed, debated, and voted, my favorite topics involved astronomy, aviation, and aerospace, although I enjoyed all of them. The titles that combine those topics with a picture book biography make wonderful entry points into the study of science and history. Even though my time with the Orbis Pictus has ended, I am still searching out those sorts of books to add to my school library collection. I would like to share two of those titles with you and suggest related areas your students might enjoy investigating.
To learn more about her amazing career, try the following:
Students may find helpful information in the following:
When I was a child visiting my school library, all the biographies were about famous presidents and other men. We still have a long way to go to balance the representation of women and other marginalized groups, but knowing there are authors and illustrators bringing these stories to life for today’s students is encouraging. Reading these stories of dreams achieved and challenges overcome may inspire young readers to pursue their own passions in life, or even introduce a topic to spark that passion. I hope everyone finds some nonfiction to engage their hearts and minds.
Suzanne Costner, School Library Media Specialist at Fairview Elementary School (Maryville, TN) member of NCTE, CLA, ALA, AASL, ILA, NAEYC, NSTA, ISTE, CAP, AFA, AIAA