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NewsDec 18, 2017

Championing compassion and perspective

Lesley faculty play pivotal role in national conference celebrating literacy and literature

Author and creative writing faculty Jason Reynolds holds a book in the air as he speaks at the conference.

Lesley faculty promoted literacy, won awards and recognized notable children’s literature at the National Council of Teachers of English 2017 conference, held in St. Louis, Missouri, in November.

The conference brings together thousands of educators each year to discuss literacy, connect with authors and learn from other educators in more than 600 sessions and workshops.

“I try to attend NCTE every year,” said Brooke Eisenbach, assistant professor of Middle and Secondary Education at Lesley. “It provides a space for connection with colleagues, reflection on my experiences as a classroom and collegiate educator, and insights into current practice in engaging diverse learners.”

Lesley creative writing faculty and award-winning author Jason Reynolds delivered the keynote address at the Children’s Book Award Luncheon, which recognizes outstanding titles published in 2017.

Lesley professors Mary Ann Cappiello and Erika Dawes, co-authors of the popular Classroom Bookshelf blog, announced awards for the best nonfiction and fiction titles of the year.

Dr. Cappiello, chair of the Orbis Pictus Award Committee, announced that Jason Chin’s “Grand Canyon” was her group’s pick for the 2018 Outstanding Nonfiction for Young People award. Writing, reading and promoting such literature as educators is important in the cultural climate, Cappiello said.

“We’re a nation disrupted by our informational literacy crisis. Science is questioned. Data ignored. History pushed to the margins,” she said. “Our work has never been more important.”

Dr. Dawes, chair of the Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children Committee, announced the five honor books, eight recommended titles and the 2018 winner, “After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again,” by Dan Santat.

“What an absolute privilege it has been to read and to select these stories for recognition,” said Dawes. “Always, but even more so in our current context, books like these, books that facilitate imagination and wonder, perspective taking and compassion fill a critical need for our children.”

Last year, two Lesley faculty in our MFA in Creative Writing Program received awards for their children’s books. The authors had the opportunity to address the audience at this year’s ceremony.

Reynolds won for his novel, “Ghost,” and creative writing professor Susan Goodman also spoke on her book “The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial,” which received the Orbis Pictus 2017 Honor Award.

Eisenbach also presented at five sessions during the conference.

“My sessions focused on infusing LGBTQ+ literature into the middle school classroom, utilizing LGBTQ+ literature for teacher professional development, meeting the developmental needs of middle level learners in the virtual classroom space and using contemporary YA literature as a catalyst for social justice in the classroom,” Eisenbach explained.

Including her own presentations, she said the conference had a “critical focus on social justice.”

Next year, as she plans to return with undergraduate education majors, Eisenbach is interested to see how that theme develops.

“It was a very moving conference, and I am excited to see how this focus continues into next year’s conference.”