Affiliates Excited to Share Stage at ALA's "Oscars"

The Youth Media Awards will have a few new announcements in 2019 – and this may be only the beginning.
This week, the American Library Association (ALA) revealed it will add to its Youth Media Awards (YMAs) announcements in 2019. In an attempt to recognize the best in multicultural literature, ALA will highlight titles selected by the American Indian Library Association (AILA)Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), and the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL). In the youth literature community, it doesn’t get any bigger than the YMAs. “That’s the Oscars, right?” says Susan Kusel, AJL board member and chair of its Sydney Taylor Book Award committee. “To be participating in it is mind blowing really. This is a dream.” Putting these books on such a big stage will not only provide recognition for the authors and illustrators, but resources for librarians, teachers, and parents, and hopefully get all children to read more multicultural literature, says Claudette McLinn, executive director of Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature (CSMCL). Sharing the affiliate's award winners in the same press conference as the ALA's own prestigious Coretta Scott King Award, Printz, Newbery, and Caldecott can go a long way toward educating everyone on the best of multicultural children's books. “Everybody does the best they can with what they know,” says McLinn. “If you know better, you do better. This has been our vision, this has been our goal." This should not only help librarians find books that reflect the lives of the children they serve, but also stories that give readers insight into the lives of others. “Multicultural literature is important for all children, all adults, all parents,” says McLinn. “A lot of us live in silos in our own community. This is a great way to understand other people and that we are all more alike than different.” For many, this inclusion is a long time coming. “For years we have been trying to have it included in the ALA media awards,” says Dora Ho, APALA president. “I am absolutely ecstatic, just so overjoyed.” With this move, ALA is acting on one of its stated missions, according to AILA president Naomi Bishop. “ALA Youth Media Awards staff wants to be more inclusive and now they are taking practical steps toward being inclusive,” says Bishop, 2018 AILA Youth Literature Awards chair and an Akimel O'odham member of the Gila River Indian Community. Bishop credits ALA’s director of the Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services Jody Gray with getting it done, but Gray says it was a group effort that included the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), along with ALA’s leadership and public awareness office, as well as the leaders of the affiliates. To choose which affiliates would be included, they sought the “ethnic affiliates” that already had youth literature awards, Gray says. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement along with the ALA’s “new strategic direction on equity, diversity, and inclusion” were not the driving factors, but certainly played a role in the decision, according to Gray. These individual organizations have been recognizing the contributions of their authors and illustrators for years. APALA has young adult, children’s, and picture book categories for its yearly awards. AJL honors authors and illustrators with four annual awards. AILA awards are given out every two years, in part to get a large enough pool of books to judge. Bishop is hopeful that the attention of being part of the YMA announcements may bring in not only more submissions but also increased funding to hold the awards every year in the future. While the affiliates hoped they might be included in this year's YMAs, logistics made that impossible. “It's not as easy as adding a couple of names to the announcements,” Gray says, adding that making the public statement now shows ALA’s commitment to making it happen next year. In the end, this may turn out to be just the beginning. “This was motivated because of the diverse books aspect, but if we open it up to some affiliates, we may have to open it up to all affiliates,” Gray says. “We are just entering the beginning phases.”
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Lisa Silverman

Wonderful news! It's nice to see ALA leadership in regards to the need for recognizing diverse books.

Posted : Feb 02, 2018 09:29