Month: February 2014
With the End of February Comes a Brand-Spanking-New Diversity Newsletter!
Click to view CBC Diversity Newsletter February 2014 v. 2 on GLOSSI.COM
Random House Children’s Books Launches Dr. Seuss’s Birthday Club
Random House Children’s Books in partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. is launching Dr. Seuss’s Birthday Club, an exciting and brand new online club for kids and their families that …
ALA Reveals 2014 ‘Great Graphic Novels for Teens’
The Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee has also created a Top Ten list of books that stand out and particularly “exemplify the quality and range of graphic novels appropriate for teen …
CBC Diversity: A Conversation with Jonda C. McNair, Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee
Interview conducted by Wendy Lamb
Can you please tell me something of your background, and your work in children’s books?
After graduating from high school in my hometown of Macon, Georgia, I attended the University of Florida where I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education. One of my professors at the University of Florida, Dr. Linda Leonard Lamme, really turned me on to children’s books. She introduced me to authors and illustrators like James E. Ransome, Eloise Greenfield, and Floyd Cooper. I remember her sharing books such as Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell with our class.
After graduation, I kept in touch with Dr. Lamme while I was teaching elementary school in Macon and she encouraged me to pursue a doctoral degree in children’s literature at The Ohio State University. She knew about its exceptional program in children’s literature. After five years of teaching students in kindergarten, first, and second grade, I resigned from my position and moved to Columbus, Ohio to attend graduate school. It was there that I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, a leading scholar of African American children’s books. These two women have had a profound impact on my career and life.
Currently I am an associate professor of Literacy Education at Clemson University in South Carolina and I teach reading methods and children’s literature courses for early childhood, elementary, and special education majors. I mainly teach undergraduates but I occasionally teach graduate students working on their master’s and doctoral degrees in literacy education.
As an educator, you have a Family Literacy Project: I Never Knew There Were So Many Books about Us: Parents and Children Reading African-American Literature Together. I read a very interesting interview with you on The Brown Bookshelf about this.
Are you working on similar programs or initiatives now?
Initially, a grant from NCTE (the National Council of Teachers of English) funded the Family Literacy Project. I was also supported by the local chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Eventually the funding ran out, but my sorority members liked the program so much they wanted to contribute and keep it going. Now we have an annual half-day program at the public library in August. Ten to fifteen families participate. I present a power-point presentation, talk about the Coretta Scott King Award, and share tips on how to conduct interactive read alouds. Each family gets to choose 10 books written by and about African Americans, along with CSK stickers, and People Colors crayons from Lakeshore Learning Materials. The program has become quite popular in our community; families hear about it and get on the waiting list.
At Clemson, I’m the faculty advisor for the IRA (International Reading Association) Student Council and most of its members are undergraduates majoring in early childhood and elementary education. I wanted the students to participate in a service project that would entail giving back to the community, and also books. I reached out to the Upstate Homeless Coalition of South Carolina, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending homelessness. This organization provides housing and also puts on programs for children and their families such as annual Christmas parties. We create goody bags to be handed out to the children at the Christmas parties. We create bags for newborns and up, to age 18. Every child gets a book, even the babies, who also get several pairs of socks and a hat. Older children get items such as crayons, marbles, Play-Doh, or a game. We’ve been doing this for about 6 or 7 years now.
Recently I decided to go after a grant to purchase books and other literacy materials (e.g., a writing suitcase) so these children will have access to print in their homes and be able to carry these items with them in the event that they have to move.
Why did you take on the role of chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards?
Honestly, I was a bit hesitant to take this role on due to all of my responsibilities as an associate professor (who is going up for full professor during my tenure as Coretta Scott King Chair), but Chrystal Carr Jeter, the previous Chair, was very persuasive and I have received a lot of support from her and the rest of the committee.
I feel like it is a really important award that promotes African American children’s literature and its creators—a passion of mine and the area in which I conduct my academic work. It also gives me a chance to interact with people (e.g., Walter Dean Myers, Kadir Nelson, Jacqueline Woodson, Tonya Bolden, etc.) whose work I admire and read.
What are your goals as chair?
I have two main goals to accomplish as CSK Chair. The first is to promote the 45th anniversary of the award and we have a number of things in place for this. For example, we are planning a special panel discussion (with Andrea Davis Pinkney serving as the moderator) with winners of the award over several decades. This will take place during the 2014 annual convention in Las Vegas. The second goal I hope to accomplish is to see that a CSK award-winning book is developed into an app. I have two young nephews who love the children’s book apps on my iPad and the only one I have that is written by an African American is Freight Train by Donald Crews—though the subject matter is more “neutral” in a sense. I would love to see a book like Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane by Carole Boston Weatherford be made into a picture book app for children.
The American Library Association website says that the Awards “are given annually to outstanding African-American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African-American culture and universal human values.”
Are American writers whose more immediate roots are not in Africa but somewhere else—such as a Haitian-American writer, or a Jamaican-American writer—also eligible?
Yes. One of the criteria is that the author self-identifies as African American, whatever his or her roots, but the book can be about the black experience worldwide, such as a book set in Brazil or one about Nelson Mandela.
Has the pool of strong submissions grown in the last ten years?
Unfortunately, no. The number of books published by and about folks of color has remained relatively stable over the last 10 years. The numbers are still low, especially in regard to Native Americans. For example, according to the statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, in 2002 and in 2012, 6 books by Native Americans were published. This is disturbing, especially in light of the stereotypical thinking about Native Americans that is all too commonplace in our society.
It seems that there are more black men who are artists, rather than novelists. Is this changing?
I too have noticed that women tend to write and that men tend to illustrate, though I am beginning to see a few men like Kadir Nelson who illustrate begin to write as well. I do wish there were more African American female illustrators like Faith Ringgold, Shadra Strickland, and Sonia Lynn Sadler (who recently passed away). In my opinion, this trend is not changing, either.
How can publishers do a better job of finding, and publishing, writers and artists of color?
I don’t know a lot about how the publishing world works but I do feel like publishers need to make a concerted effort to seek out new authors and illustrators of color. One way might be to develop writing contests similar to those sponsored by the Council on Interracial Books for Children. The winners of those contests included folks like Mildred Taylor and Walter Dean Myers—and we all know what an impact they have had.
I think publishers need to seek out employees (e.g., editors, marketing managers, etc.) that represent the diversity of the world in which we live. When I visit publishing booths at conferences, the majority of the people that I see appear to be White. Having a more diverse publishing workforce could possibly impact the finding and publishing of artists of color. For example, I was really impressed with the Jump at the Sun imprint that Andrea Davis Pinkney created while she worked at Hyperion. I also think that working with editors of color might be a benefit to White authors, especially those who choose to write about people of color.
Absolutely. And white editors can benefit from working with editors of color. About finding authors: publishers are concerned because we simply don’t receive many submissions from writers of color. As you point
out, contests were fruitful—another example is of Christopher Paul Curtis submitting The Watsons Go To Birmingham-1963 to the Delacorte First YA Novel contest. But it seems that nowadays promising writers tend to find an agent rather than submit to a contest. Since the majority of what we publish comes from agents, the CBC Diversity Committee is planning a Diversity Dialogue with agents to talk about what we can do to find writers of color, and increase submissions.
Our committee is also committed to helping to create a more diverse workplace. Our members often speak about careers in publishing at local colleges, and we’re exploring ideas such as internships, and a scholarship fund to support people at entry level.
Jonda, it’s been such a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much for your time, for your inspiring ideas, and for the important work you’re doing as an educator, and with the American Library Association.
Jonda C. McNair is the chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Award Committee, which oversees the awards jury and other Coretta Scott King committees such as membership and publications. She served as jury chair a few years ago. She is an associate professor at Clemson University and co-edited Embracing, Examining and Evaluating African American Children’s and Young Adult Literature.
2014 Children’s Book Week Bookmark by Caldecott-Honoree Steve Jenkins Revealed!
Steve Jenkins has written and illustrated more than 30 nonfiction picture books about the natural world, many of them with his co-author and wife Robin Page. Steve’s books represent the …
Bestselling Fancy Nancy Illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser’s Official 2014 Children’s Book Week Poster Unveiled at Bookweekonline.com
PREISS GLASSER’S OFFICIAL POSTER COMMEMORATES THE 95TH ANNUAL CELEBRATION OF CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK (MAY 12-18, 2014), THE LONGEST-RUNNING NATIONAL LITERACY INITIATIVE IN THE COUNTRY FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE New York, NY …
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers to Publish New Young Adult Novel by ‘New York Times’ Bestselling Author Becca Fitzpatrick
NEW YORK, NY – Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers announced today that it will publish a new young adult novel written by Becca Fitzpatrick, the New York Times bestselling author of …
EpicReads Creates an Epic Chart of YA Retellings
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Philip Pullman Uses Twitter For Storytelling
“I joined Twitter back in November because the people who do my website suggested it would be a good quick way of keeping in touch with readers. I soon found …
Educators! Sign Up by 2/28 to Receive Latino Culture Books from First Book for FREE!
Eligible educators who sign up by February 28 could receive $200 worth of new diverse books for their students. “…we hear all the time from educators in Latino communities across …
Sherman Alexie Talks About Inspiration, Rethinking the Native-American Literary Tradition
“The Indian literary world is so filled with the same kind of down-and-out Indians; I write about them too. Giving an Indian a white-collar job in a story creates the …
Scholastic Reading Club Collects 100 Reasons to Read
Some of the reasons include: “The more you read, the more you know!” “Reading is a Gift!” “To experience magic.” “Because variety is the spice of life!” “To let your …
Authors & Illustrators: Join Kate DiCamillo and Volunteer for ‘Indies First’ Storytime Day for Children’s Book Week!
On Small Business Saturday last year, Sherman Alexie began the Indies First movement by encouraging fellow authors to volunteer as booksellers-for-a-day in support of their local independent bookstores. With the …
Register Your Día Program Today!
Visit the Día website at http://dia.ala.org to learn more about how you can celebrate diversity and connect children to a world of learning through books, stores and libraries. Explore and …
5 Y.A. Writers Named Finalists for the L.A. Times Book Prize
In addition, The Fault in Our Stars author John Green has been named the winner of the Innovators Award. Green has been recognized “for his dynamic use of online media …
2014 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award Winners Announced
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE NEW YORK—February 19, 2014—The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation in partnership with the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at The University of Southern Mississippi announced today the winners …
Faith Jackson Dubbed ‘Real-Life Matilda’
“Faith began to keep track of her reading at the suggestion of her mother. As well as Enid Blyton, she reads The Hardy Boys adventures created by Edward Stratemeyer, the …
Maxine Kumin, Pulitzer-Winning Poet and Children’s Book Author, Dies at 88
“The author of essays, novels, short stories and children’s books as well as poetry, Ms. Kumin (pronounced KYOO-min, like the spice) was praised by critics for her keen ear for the aural …
2013 Cybils Award Winners Announced
This year, the winners are: Elementary and Middle GradeBook Apps: Disney Animated by Disney (Disney and Touch Press) Best Picture Book For Young Readers: Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown (Little, …
Macmillan To Publish First Novel From Swoon Reads, a Crowdsourced Romance Imprint and Online Community
NEW YORK, NY — Macmillan announced today the first acquisition from Swoon Reads (www.swoonreads.com), its crowdsourced teen romance imprint and online community. Slated to be published in both print & ebook …