June 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Kid Lit Community Steps Up to Support Youth Movement

Angered by another school shooting, Raina Telgemeier was moved to action while watching a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student’s speech a few days after the Valentine’s Day tragedy that killed 17.

“Watching Emma Gonzalez’s speech was what brought me to tears and I said, ‘I can no longer be quiet, I can no longer sit by and watch, I have to help somehow,'” she says.

But the bestselling author of Smile and Drama didn’t know exactly how to help. She began discussing the situation over Twitter with YA author Jenny Han (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before).That conversation moved to email and an idea to support the bigger movement emerged. The two began #KidLitMarchesforKids, a plan to bring the children’s literature community together as part of the March For Our Lives events around the country on March 24.

The idea is that “authors, illustrators, publishers, librarians, booksellers, bloggers—anyone who considers themselves a part of this amazing community” march together behind a #KidLitMarchesforKids banner to show their support for their readers and the rest of the country’s youth trying to lead the way to change.

“We believe they are our future,” Telgemeier says. “And we agree with them.”

Banding together and marching as a group instead of individually shows that the children’s literature community is behind the students, Telgemeier says, and allows a community that is spread out around the world to come together united behind a common cause.

Telgemeier and Han decided on this plan after some deliberation. They didn’t want it to look like their initiative was an attempt to move the spotlight toward industry adults or to try to take charge. It’s about amplifying the message of the students’ movement and showing support, they say.

“We thought about this—this is not about us,  not about selling books, this is not about promotion for us,” says Telgemeier. “This is about knowing that we have readers, we have kids who look up to us, aspire to be authors themselves. What better way to support that than to march alongside them?”

Telgemeier will be marching in San Francisco, and Han in New York City. Ellen Oh, author of the “Prophecy” trilogy, will be in Washington, DC, and others will be spread out in cities and smaller towns around the country.

People can find a march with a kid lit group near them on their Kid Lit Marches for Kids Facebook page or by searching the hashtag on Twitter. As the day gets closer, meet-up locations will be announced, and there will be banners with the #KidLitMarchesforKids logo so people can find each other that day. The groups can include authors and industry people as well as readers if they want to join.

Having spent so much time writing for young people and meeting them at schools and events around the country, Telgemeier says she is not surprised by their strength and powerful voices.

“I’m not surprised students are standing up,” she says. “I’m surprised the culture at large has taken notice this time. I’m really grateful it’s been something big.”

Whether or not this movement impacts the stories these authors tell in the future remains to be seen.

“There is the undercurrent that YA literature reflects the world we live in and reflects the power young people have,” she says. “We write what we see. We write what we know. We write what we believe.”

“YA literature is always happy to push the envelope on issues,” she says. “Young readers really respect that.”

Kara Yorio About Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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