Children's Literature Association 2024 Conference

May 30 - June 1, 2024

Madison Concourse Hotel & Governor's Club
Madison, Wisconsin

Theme: Looking Back, Looking Forward:  ChLA at 50


As we approach the 50-year anniversary of the Children’s Literature Association’s founding, we gather to reflect on the past, present, and future of our field. 

Looking back, children’s literature has withstood suspicion. Much as children themselves have been dismissed as unsophisticated or insignificant, literature for them – and the study of that literature – has been misrepresented as simple or unrigorous rather than recognized for its complexity and import. Gender has shaped our field, given women’s representation among children’s literature authors and scholars, who contend with the persistent undervaluing of women’s contributions. Nevertheless, scholars of children’s literature and other media, childrens’ culture, and childhood studies have continued to build interdisciplinary engagements with work in literature, library studies, and education, and expand our field to new generations of scholars. 

Children’s literature itself has a contentious past. Reproducing various problems of the adults who largely create it, it reflects our world. Disparities in access to publication, ideologies of white supremacy and imperialism, sexism and heterosexism and cissexism, ableism, and the privileging of dominant religions and ethnicities and nationalities are all reflected in much of children’s literature and other media. Meanwhile, some authors have always written against the grain, attending to children who have not been well-represented by the majority of texts and paving a way for future generations of writers to continue expanding children’s worldviews. Scholars, too,  have interrogated our genres’ problems – and our own, related, failings – to promote necessary change. 

In our field’s present moment, we work against a backdrop of contention. The rise of fascism in our times has produced attacks on intellectuals, education, and (of course) children. One result is the banning of books – overwhelmingly books for young people, taught in public schools and available in public libraries. These bans especially target books about histories of racism and those that celebrate a diversity of gender expression and sexuality. This is an attack on the literature that tells young people the truth about our past and helps them to thrive in the present, encouraging them to work towards a better world and to live their best and fullest lives. 

As scholars of ChLA, we look back upon our past, assess the stakes of this present moment, and look forward as we work to forge the future of children’s literature, media, and childhood studies over the next 50 years and beyond. Texts for children can be imaginative, instructive, world-building, truth-telling, joyful, hopeful, and honest. At their best, they provide young people with tools to learn from the past, to grow into their own self-awareness and expression, to explore possibilities they hadn’t yet considered, to spend joyful moments of both reflection on this world and speculative escape beyond it. The breadth of the genre can help child (and adult) readers, viewers, and thinkers to thrive in a diverse world that need not cater only to the privileged few, but which includes something for us all.

The Children’s Literature Association 2024 Conference, “Looking Back, Looking Forward: ChLA at 50” will be held from Thursday, May 30th through Saturday, June 1st at the Madison Concourse Hotel & Governor’s Club in Madison, Wisconsin. 

As we plan our 50th conference in Madison, we hope to carefully consider the local implications of our conference in a city and state which – much like both children’s literature and academia – is troubled by those who perpetuate many of the societal problems of bigotry and exclusion mentioned above and bolstered by those working to correct them. Madison is also home to the Children’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC),a non-circulating library of historical and contemporary children’s books available for research, located in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education. As many ChLA members may know, the CCBC has documented racial representation in the children’s books it receives since 1985, offering an important resource for children’s literature studies. ChLA looks forward to the opportunity for a CCBC-related event while we are in Madison, as well as other events that attend to the pressing issues and opportunities of our conference location.

We welcome submissions of individual papers and fully formed panels on any topic pertaining to children’s literature, children’s culture, childhood studies, and related areas of study. We especially invite contributions that can help us all reflect on the past, present, and future of our exciting, interdisciplinary field.

ChLA members should submit proposals (of 300 words or fewer for individual papers and 500 words or fewer for full panels) via the ChLA 2024 Conference Proposal Form. The submission site will be available in August 2023 and members will be alerted when this site opens;  proposals must be submitted before October 15th, 2023. Members will receive notification of accepted panels by February 2024. Questions can be directed to Cate Langley, Association Manager, at [email protected].