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First Annual Social Justice Literature Awards

by Carolyn L. Cook, Kenneth Fasching-Varner, and Aimee Rogers
 | Oct 25, 2013

Social Book AwardThe International Reading Association's Literacy and Social Responsibility Special Interest Group (SIG) awarded the first annual Social Justice Literature Awards at the International Reading Association’s 2013 conference in San Antonio, Texas. The Award was given to two books: The House on Dirty-Third Street by Jo S. Kittinger and illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez for Best Picture Book and Summer on the Moon by Adrian Fogelin for Best Non-Picture Book.

The Literacy and Social Responsibility SIG created this award to highlight children’s and young adult literature that illustrates qualities of social justice. The award is the result of a year-long process of the SIG. This process included selecting co-chairs Carolyn Cook, Kenneth Fasching-Varner, and Aimee Rogers; developing criteria for evaluating nominated texts; reviewing all entries; and coming to a final decision. The main categories created were Picture Books and Non-Picture Books with the potential subcategories of poetry, narrative and nonfiction. The committee was supported by the generous mentoring of Alma Flor Ada and Isabel Campoy, both of whom have experience with similar book awards.

The award committee selected the top 10% of the nominations received from publishers. In reviewing texts the committee considered two principles: recognition of the literary and artistic qualities of the text, as well as the reader response. With respect to literary and artistic qualities, texts were evaluated on how they fostered respect and understanding of diverse populations, promoted social responsibility (including equity, justice, and peace), presented social issues in their complexity, and addressed social responsibility towards individuals, communities, societies and/or the environment.  With respect to reader response, books were evaluated for the extent to which the text invites reflection and socially responsible action by the reader. Furthermore, in the reader response the committee judged how the text encourages the analysis of past injustices showing possible alternatives and/or challenges and how the text opens the reader’s imagination to other possibilities. Lastly, the committee considered the appeal of the text to the targeted readers.

Selected Picture Book

The House on Dirty-Third StreetThe House on Dirty-Third Street by Jo S. Kittinger and illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
Peachtree Publishers, 2012, 32 pp.
ISBN 978-1561456192
Age Range: 4-8

In The House on Dirty-Third Street, a mother and her daughter have just moved into a different house to get a new start. As a result of limited income, it is located in an uninviting neighborhood. They spend much time and energy cleaning the house and yard, but they are discouraged because there is so much work to be done. People appear to paint and repair the house. Through the help of the community the house soon lives up to the visions mom had when she bought it. The double-page illustrations pull the reader into the emotions of the story. The illustrations are rendered in dull colors which gradually brighten as things improve for the mother and daughter. The reader understands life as a single mom and sees the power of faith and a giving community.

Selected Non-picture Book

Summer on the MoonSummer on the Moon by Adrian Fogelin
Peachtree Publishers, 2012, 256 pp.
ISBN 978-1561456260
Age Range: 9-12

In Summer on the Moon, summer vacation is just beginning for Socko and his best friend Damien. The first problem is dealing with Rapp, the leader of the local gang and neighborhood bully. However the best the friends can do is to postpone, but not solve the problem of Rapp. The next problem comes when mom unexpectedly moves Socko away from this bad neighborhood to Moon Ridge Estates, a half-built housing development. Socko is lost without Damien and the comfort of his former neighborhood. He spends his time taking care of his grumpy great-grandfather, the General. With this new responsibility and his deepening understanding of the situation at Moon Ridge Estates, Socko discovers that it is not where one lives that determines one’s character, but rather one’s actions. In addition, the reader learns with Socko the power found in family and friends no matter where you live.

2014 Committee and Award

The Committee is currently taking nominations from publishers for the 2014 award. Please contact Carolyn (cook@msmary.edu), Kenny (varner@lsu.edu), or Aimee (aimeearogers@gmail.com) with book submissions or questions. The 2014 committee will consist of Sarah Harrison-Burns, Patricia Dean, Zanthia Smith, Denise Stuart, and Joyce Wheaton. Nominations for the 2015 committee are also being taken. The committee will proceed with members rotating off after a multi-year commitment.


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