President's Message

Karen Chandler
Among the many notes from Michelle Martin’s amazing Francelia Butler Lecture at this June’s ChLA Conference that have stayed with me is her closing suggestion that we “think about what our counter-stories are.” As individuals, as readers, critics of, and advocates for children’s literature, and particularly as members of the Children’s Literature Association, what are our counter-stories? How have we fit our experiences into long-standing cultural narratives about personal, academic and professional achievement, and how have we complicated and rewritten stories to express ourselves? How have we conveyed these alternative stories and what effects have they engendered?  How can ChLA be a space in or through which we can share our counter-stories?
Next summer’s ChLA’s annual conference will provide opportunities for us to think and talk about the cultural significance of stories for children, especially those that explore sustainability. As I prepared to write this letter, I thought of environmental activists Greta Thunberg and Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez and many other young persons who have raised their voices to demand sustainable, equitable, and just social practices. I also thought of literature for young readers that promotes critical thinking about our complicated relationship to the environment, including DyAnne DiSalvo’s City Green, recent Ruth Lilly-winner Marilyn Nelson’s Carver, and Sy Montgomery’s many books. Please come to Bellevue, Washington in June 2020 to participate in ChLA’s discussion of sustainability, environmental justice and other important topics in children’s literature, culture, childhood studies, and related areas. We are now planning the conference, which will take place June 18th to 20th, and we are excited to receive your proposals and to organize the conference in ways that will be productive for your scholarship. Check out the call for papers on our website: The deadline is October 15, 2019.
The ChLA Board is also processing the feedback about the most recent conference, and the comments gleaned from its Listening Tables. We are considering how to sustain cherished traditions, such as the conference and our literature prizes, in light of ecological, economic, and professional pressures and challenges. This paperless newsletter is one response to environmental concerns and to feedback from last year’s survey calling for enhanced communication throughout the year. Long a bi-annual publication, it will now appear quarterly. And we are working to implement additional ways for the organization to stay connected and to be attuned to ChLA members.
In her Francelia Butler Lecture, Michelle demonstrated the power of counter-storytelling by using what traditionally has been an academic, intellectual space to share a complicated story of selfhood that she presented as a children’s story, with song. Her story emphasized her relationship to other people, including her family, and to children’s literature. The story encouraged audience members to participate, to lend our voices to her song, and thus spoke to the inspirational power of collaborating and doing things differently. Her lecture demonstrated the power of acknowledging but also overcoming boundaries that separate (e.g. presenter from audience, art from scholarship). As she joined her creative energies with her scholarly perspective, Michelle inspired her audience by modeling one way of being one’s full and complicated self in ChLA.  We are scholars, teachers, creative writers, librarians, and readers, and ChLA allows us to consider these intersecting identities as appropriate and invigorating lenses of critique and bases for community. Thank you for your continued membership and involvement in ChLA. I look forward to seeing you in June 2020.
Best wishes,
ChLA President, 2019-2020
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