President's Message | August 2023

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

ChLA is about its members. We have recently, and suddenly, lost one who has left an indelible imprint on this organization. There is no good way to make this announcement to our community, and it is difficult to find words. A special tribute to the life of Althea Tait will be coming soon.

It was wonderful to see so many of you in Bellevue. Thank you to Michelle Martin and her team for putting on such a wonderful conference, full of opportunities to collaborate, learn from one another, and meet new friends. Thanks to the Membership Committee for their work making new attendees feel welcome, and to the Accessibility Committee for their excellent guidance. This was our first conference with our new management team, Association Leadership Partners. Cate Langley, our new Association Manager, learned the ropes quickly! 

As Kenneth and Amy, last year’s stouthearted co-presidents promised, we are now announcing the 2024 conference, “Looking Back, Looking Forward: ChLA at 50,” which will be held May 30-June 1 at the Madison Concourse Hotel & Governor's Club in Madison, Wisconsin. The CFP is intentionally general: we welcome abstracts on any topic related to our organization’s fields of study–past, present, or future. The conference venue is conveniently located in walkable downtown Madison (which sits on an isthmus between two beautiful lakes) and less than a mile away from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The hotel runs a complimentary shuttle to the Dane County Regional Airport (MSN).

This year’s process was highly unusual: with no one stepping up to host the conference, the Board took on the responsibility ourselves. Taking to heart member concerns about cost, we considered smaller cities with accessible airports. Cate solicited bids from venues in Charlotte, Raleigh, Cincinnati, Madison, and Pittsburgh. Board members with connections to those cities prepared presentations on suitability for ChLA, connections to communities of color and their histories, potential partnerships and activities of interest to folks in ChLA, and the relative advantages of the hotels that provided bids in each city. We owe a special thanks to the hard work of Rebekah Fitzsimmons, Pete Kunze, Paige Gray, Sarah Minslow, and Brigitte Fielder. 

We also gave a great deal of weight to concerns about discriminatory legislation. Madison was one of two site options not part of the California prohibition on state-sponsored travel (the other was Pittsburgh, which we added later for that reason). However, while Wisconsin had fewer recent discriminatory laws than many of the other states we looked at at the time, this is a rapidly changing landscape. It is important to remember that all places have complicated histories (and presents). Histories of oppression are everywhere in the US. Madison is no exception. The Board agreed that a successful conference would include events that connect children’s literature to those histories and their extension into the present and the future. 

Many ChLA members will be familiar with UW Madison’s Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC)'s widely cited data on racial representation in children’s literature; as one Board member put it, that data is a useful metaphor for the same challenges we’ve been addressing (and continue to address) in the field. Madison gives us many opportunities to take up the 2024 conference theme’s invitation by honoring the past and orienting ourselves to new directions.

Speaking of new directions, this year’s experience has raised the idea of board-hosted conferences in the future. Rather than having to organize the entire conference, local hosts might concentrate on providing place-centered ideas and connections. For example, the Board could not have come up with the list of ideas for partnerships in Madison that Brigitte Fielder provided (a huge thank you to Brigitte, who will be joined by Tammy Mielke–and anyone else from the Madison area who would like to join them as local hosts!)

Beyond working to plan an event in collaboration with the CCBC, we've identified some potential collaborations with area groups for the following:

  • collaborations with local social justice and community organizations that provide programming and support for young people, particularly members of Madison's BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities

  • events connecting to local cultural institutions (public and private) that work to educate and enrich youth

  • events highlighting authors and educators belonging to any of Wisconsin's 11 federally-recognized or other unrecognized tribes

  • events highlighting authors and educators belonging to immigrant communities that are prominent in Madison 

  • events highlighting local educators and educational efforts to serve young people

  • events highlighting local public health efforts focusing on children and young people

  • ideas for potential off-site events at local (public and private) educational and cultural institutions

Whether it’s in the form of shared hosting between the Board and local representatives, or a continuation of the more traditional model, we need to start thinking immediately about the 2026 conference (the 2025 conference will be board-hosted and virtual, as will conferences in odd-numbered years for the foreseeable future). If you're interested in the possibility of bringing ChLA to your city and helping to plan an upcoming conference, we'd love to hear from you! Feel free to contact Cate Langley, Association Manager, at [email protected].  

We are excited to share another new change (or a change back, in keeping with the conference theme): by Spring 2024, we expect to be using Johns Hopkins University Press for membership services. If all goes according to plan, you will be able to choose between online or paper copies of each of our subscription journals (you will be able to make separate choices for Children’s Literature and the Quarterly). We will be in touch with more details once the new partnership is solidified.  

Please be on the lookout for CFPs for ChLA-sponsored MLA 2025 panel applications–they’ll be posted on the website soon. 

I hope that summer is bringing you whatever combination of rest and excitement you want most. ChLA is your organization: please feel free to reach out with your questions, concerns, and ideas. 

Yours very sincerely,


Maude Hines
President 2023-24

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