2019 Children's Literature Summer Institute follow-up

From July 25rd to the 28th, I had the honor of attending my first Children’s Literature Summer Institute at Simmons University. As a graduate student at Simmons, I enrolled in the two-week summer course tied to the institute, taught by this year's Carol S. Kline Visiting Professor, Eric Tribunella of The University of Southern Mississippi. For many of us, this was our first exposure to a professional conference. We were well equipped for it thanks to a wagon’s worth of pre-reading and probing discussions led by Professor Tribunella in our classes.

A few thoughts on specific sessions:

Grace Lin and Alvina Ling’s “Book Friends Forever” podcast kicked off the institute Thursday evening with a rousing discussion about the #OwnVoices movement (started by MG/YA author Corinne Duyvis). Grace and Alvina considered the ways that #OwnVoices has different implications for authors, publishers, and audiences. While they had different views on the movement, the overall agreement was that the movement is meant to raise up previously unheard voices, not to tear others down.

M.T. Anderson’s talk on Sunday morning invited the audience to consider how popular subjects of children’s literature carry hidden agendas. While recycling the romanticized “Main Street, USA” setting seems innocuous, it perpetuates the construct of a white-default culture. The single-family farm depicted in many board and picture books seems harmless, but perpetuates inaccurate ideas about the agriculture business today.

M. T. Anderson's presentation. Photo: Keri Bradeen.

The institute was bookended with another podcast directed and narrated by Professor Lauren Rizzuto, with contributions from conference speakers and students about which books shaped their childhood reading.

Simmons encouraged students’ involvement in the institute through speaker introductions and podcast participation. The experience left me eagerly awaiting the next institute in 2021 — and looking for other conferences to attend in the meantime!

For more on the 2019 Children's Literature Summer Institute, see the conference report by Horn Book editors Cynthia K. Ritter, Martha V. Parravano, and Shoshana Flax.

Katie Smith

Horn Book editorial intern Katie Smith is a dual-degree graduate student in the Children’s Literature and Library & Information Science departments at Simmons University.

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