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Editors: Jamie Campbell Naidoo, Ph.D. and Sarah Park, Ph.D.

Tentative Title: Sliding Doors in a Pluralistic Society: Critical Approaches to and Intercultural Perspectives on Diversity in Contemporary Literature for Children and Young Adults

Publisher: ALA Editions

Youth deserve to encounter authentic and accurate representations of their cultures in books, libraries, and classrooms. Twenty-first century librarians and educators can be poised to meet the informational, recreational, and cultural needs of youth by providing high-quality children’s and young adult literature and literacy activities that reflect the culturally pluralistic society of the United States.

For our edited volume, we seek chapters that address the growing demands of school media specialists, public youth librarians, classroom teachers, and other educators for information on selecting materials and creating literacy and library programs to meet the needs of children and young adults in our culturally pluralistic society. We define diversity not only in terms of race and culture, but also in age, ability, religious preferences, family composition, and so on. By providing new critical and intercultural approaches to diversity in contemporary literature for children and young adults, this book will provide theoretical frameworks that consider the over-arching issues which continue to expand and break boundaries in youth literature. These approaches can assist librarians and other educators in choosing, evaluating, and selecting quality children’s and YA literature and using it to meet the literacy (informational, reading, cultural, etc.) needs of the increasingly diverse youth population in U.S libraries, classrooms, and homes. As well, the critical and intercultural approaches can help educators situate the books in their socio-political contexts in order to consider how the books may meet the social needs of youth. Finally, the title will provide ideas and examples of successful library and literacy programs that incorporate diverse children’s literature to meet the informational and recreational needs of all children and young adults.

We seek current and timely chapters on the following topics (each bullet represents a separate chapter):

  • Literature review of studies from various disciplines related to the topics of cultural diversity, cultural pluralism, cultural literacy, diversity, etc. as presented in children’s and young adult literature.
  • Understanding the politics and key concerns in selecting, analyzing, and using diverse literature for children and young adults.
  • Creating a working conceptualization of diversity that can be used with children and young adults to foster intercultural understanding and prepare young minds for interacting in the culturally pluralistic society of the U.S.
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Representing African American People and Cultures.
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Representing Latino People and Cultures
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Representing Asian American People and Cultures
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Representing Indigenous People and Cultures
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Representing Multiracial or Transnational Youth
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Describing Characters with Cognitive Dis/Abilities
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Describing Characters with Physical Dis/Abilities
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Representing Religious Affiliations.
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Young Adult Literature Depicting Incarcerated Youth
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Depicting Homelessness
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature Describing Transnational Adoptions
  • Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Children’s Books Depicting Gender Variance and Queer Families and Characters

Other Guidelines: Each chapter must be under 4,000 words, inclusive of all bibliographies and notes. The author(s) should include information about selecting books representing the cultural group, descriptions of “good” and “bad” books, and programming ideas/ strategies that have been tested with children and young adults in classroom and library settings. Chapters should be formatted according the Chicago Manual of Style.

Deadlines: If you are interested in contributing to this edited work, please send a proposal (approximately 500 words) by November 1, 2010, which outlines how you would address the topics in one of the aforementioned chapters. Proposals should include your name, affiliation, email, and phone number along with a current 2-page CV highlighting relevant publications related to your chapter. We will notify selected authors of our decisions by November 15, 2010.  Completed chapters are due by May 30, 2011.

Please send proposals by November 1st to with “Chapter Proposal” in the subject heading.

Questions? Contact us at

Some interesting headlines from this past week:

Guatemala to resume Int’l Adoptions in June

Until the door to adoptions slammed shut in 2007, Guatemala was the world’s second-largest source of babies to the United States after China due to its routinely quick adoption process.

Authorities suspended adoptions after discovering evidence some babies had been stolen, others had fake birth certificates, and women were being coerced to give up their children.

As my friend Nate asks, what exactly has been changed with this new system? The article cites that instead of parents requesting certain characteristics in children, now adoptive parents will be provided with a “list” of children available for adoption. in my mind, they’re two sides of the same coin. Either way, the adoptive parents will get what they “want.” The difference is in the former case they’re putting in a virtually customized order, and in the second, they’re picking from a list. Since this article is so short, I hope that there’s a lot more behind the changes that we just haven’t yet seen.

Young Learners Need Librarians, Not Just Google

As a former corporate lawyer, I owe much of my success to effective research skills that evolved, with the help of skilled trainers, as new tools came along. As a former executive officer at a company that had 1,200 employees in 29 countries worldwide, I know that without adequate media literacy training, kids will not succeed in a 21st-century workplace. The “old school” ways of communicating won’t cut it; I’ve mastered those, and yet now spend each day re-learning how to communicate effectively in this new world order. And as the founder of a company whose mission is to teach the effective use of the Internet, I have pored through dozens of studies, and recently oversaw one myself, that all came to the same conclusion: Students do not know how to find or evaluate the information they need on the Internet.

Study after study after study (Keith Lance comes to mind) stress the importance of having school librarians (also known as school media specialists) in every school. (Tongue in cheek) Maybe everyone should get an LIS degree.

I guess we’ll see how both situations pan out. It’s been a rough but productive week, and I am now on spring break, so I’m going to work hard and play hard for the next 10 days. I’ll hopefully blog more too. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more!

I’m re-reading an article by Junko Yokota titled, “Asian Americans in Literature for Children and Young Adults” (Teacher Librarian 36:3  Feb 2009) in preparation for giving a guest lecture tonight in Dr. Thomas Crisp’s children’s literature class. Today, this part of Yokota’s words stood out to me:

Representation does not mean looking for the ideally authentic book to represent a culture; no one book can be “the best book” for representing Asian American literature. In fact, it takes many books to create a multidimensional look at a culture.

Whenever I talk about Korean American children’s books or Korean adoption in children’s books, people inevitably ask one of two questions:

  1. Do you plan to write a children’s book on this topic? (No.)
  2. What one book would you recommend?

I find it almost insulting, after giving a presentation on the great variety of experiences and depth of history of the Korean diaspora, and representations of such in children’s literature, to be asked what one book I would recommend. For what time period? From whose perspective? For what age level? In what genre(s)? In which region(s)? On what topics/issues?

Rather than ask, “What is the best book for Korean American youth?” how about asking, “What are some books that represent a range of Korean American experiences for XYZ age group?”

I am much better able to answer the latter question than the former one.

I love my President, but I (and tons of other people) are really upset at the absence of libraries in his education budget. The press release from ALA is titled,

“President’s budget freezes library spending, omits school libraries from education increase.”

This is the press release from ALA:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Obama today released his FY2011 Budget Proposal to Congress, calling for a freeze to federal library funding under the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), the primary source of federal funding for libraries.

Under the President’s plan, LSTA would be level-funded at $214 million.

As Americans deal with the weakened economy, they are using their libraries more than ever before, visiting them over 119 million times each month. American Library Association (ALA) President Camila Alire said freezing federal funding for libraries at this time of increased demand will hinder libraries from serving job-seekers, who are flocking to the library for help with online job searching and applications, resume writing, computer classes and much more.

“During this time of hoped-for economic recovery, public libraries are one of the greatest tools our nation has, and a lack of federal support jeopardizes this critical institution,” Alire said.

“President Obama often speaks about helping America get back to work, and libraries are critical access points to information and resources that are helping job-seekers every day. Unfortunately, countless libraries in our country are suffering from state budget cuts that have resulted in staff loss, reduced hours, or even closures. Many libraries have managed to efficiently use what little resources they have, but they are hanging on by a thread.

Federal funding may be a small percentage of the funding America’s libraries receive, but it is critical. The ALA calls on Congress to support America’s libraries by not only restoring the funding lost to libraries in the President’s budget proposal but by increasing the funding, which is desperately needed.”

The President’s budget also included a $400 billion investment into education but did not include specific funds for school libraries. Alire said the federal government should invest in school libraries to ensure every student graduates from high school with 21st century skills.

“It is alarming that the President did not recognize the value of school libraries in today’s schools and include them in this effort to improve education,” Alire said.

“Research repeatedly shows that a well-funded and fully staffed school library program with a state-licensed school librarian is an integral component of a student’s education.”

Read the press release here, and then write to your Congresspeople that this is NOT OKAY WITH YOU.

Now, I try not to set too much store by US News and World Report rankings except of course, when they announce that the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois is ranked #1 in the entire country (which, of course, means in the entire universe). So who am I to argue that they recently announced that librarianship is one of the best careers of 2009? 🙂

Overview. Forget about that image of librarians as a mousy bookworms. More and more of today’s librarians must be clever interrogators, helping the patron to reframe their question more usefully. Librarians then become high-tech information sleuths, helping patrons plumb the oceans of information available in books and digital records, often starting with a clever Google search but frequently going well beyond.

Read the rest of the article here. To be fair, the description is a little glamoratized (“Librarians may also go on shopping sprees, deciding which books and online resources to buy. They may even get to put on performances, like children’s puppet shows, and run other programs, like book discussion groups for elders.” — as if those are *easy* tasks?! We have whole courses devoted to collection development, online databases, children’s services, storytelling, and running book discussion groups!) 

Also, here’s proof that you can’t *really* trust US News and World Report rankings: they say being a professor is one of the most overrated careers 😦 

To get tenure, which takes seven years, one typically must, in addition to a carrying full teaching load and advising students, publish original research, serve on committees, and perform other university service. That means long hours and not even close to getting the summers off.

It’s hard work, but someone’s got to do it. Might as well be someone who loves what they do enough to survive 5+ years of graduate school :o)

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