Each year the International Reading Association Selection Committee for Notable Books for a Global Society selects “well written books… in which children can see themselves…bringing stories that are engaging and compelling.” These represent books for all ages and all readers. Selections vary from poetry, fiction, and biography with age range spans from picture book through middle grade and up to young adult.
Karen Hildebrand, Chair of the IRA Selection Committee, agreed to answer a few questions about the award and why it’s an invaluable resource for parents, teachers and librarians.
Why was this “new” award-recognition of “global books” established by an IRA group?
The list was created for teachers, students and families to suggest quality books that show readers many different groups of people who have different ways of living. We wanted the list to go beyond looking at holiday and food differences, but to actually depict cultural differences and similarities and what contemporary authors say through “story” to bring voice to a variety of cultures.
The books that are chosen as our top 25 have been read and evaluated by a 9-panel committee of professors of children’s literature, librarians, and classroom teachers.
Of the criteria described on the Books for a Global Society website, what are two or three that are especially important to you?
Our definition of “global” has broadened. A year ago two of our winners, Marcelo in the Real World and Anything But Typical, were books about autism. A recent winner, Five Flavors of Dumb, is about a strong female character who is deaf and yet is involved in the world of music. Years ago, autism and deafness may not have been considered as “global” but because we are looking at reading communities that are in a minority or have been overlooked or marginalized, we felt these were outstanding books to represent the “underrepresented” in contemporary literature for youth.
I think our most important criterion, however, is a well written book.
Another criteria is the accuracy and authenticity of the cultural representations. A beautiful example of this is last year’s winner, Blessing’s Bead by Debbie Dahl Edwardson for the older reader — or for a younger reader, Saltypie by Tim Tingle.
Why do you encourage children to read these books?
If children are provided with books that offer a window outside of their own communities, we hope we are broadening their view of the world. Our list offers a variety of genres – poetry, fiction, nonfiction and picture books as well as graphic novels and biographies.
Books also address the ELL and immigrant children, or children who live in alternative parenting families.
For a young reader, Dear Primo by Duncan Tonatiuh looks at two cultures simultaneously as cousins write back and forth from Mexico to the US.
I end with this quote from Yvonne Siu-Runyan, the woman who was the initial force behind the NBGS,
“Stories are people, just as people are stories; that is, when we read or hear stories, we learn about and deepen our understanding about others and self. Stories provide a way to understand the past and present, project toward the future, and celebrate both the multiplicity and commonalities among all peoples so that humanity can evolve toward peace, acceptance, and harmony throughout the world.”
Links, Lists and further reading:
~ IRA has published Breaking Boundaries with Global Literature; Celebrating Diversity in the K-12 Classrooms edited by Nancy L. Hadaway and Marian J. McKenna (c2007).
This collection has chapters that include key themes in using global literature including teaching and classroom ideas. More book lists divided into genre, theme or author lists are available HERE.
2011 Notable Books for a Global Society (K-12)
Saltypie; A Choctaw journey from darkness into light by Tim Tingle. Illus. by Karen Clarkson. Cinco Puntos Press
Mirror by Jeannie Baker. Candlewick Press
Goal by Mina Javaherbin. Illus. by A.G. Ford. Candlewick Press
Dear Primo: a letter to my cousin by Duncan Tonatiuh. Abrams
Fly Free by Roseanne Thong. Illus. by Eujin Kim Neilan, Boyds Mills Press
Seeds of Change: planting a path to peace by Jen Cullerton Johnson. Lee and Low Books
Yummy; the last days of a Southside shorty by G. Neri. Lee and Low Books
Black Jack; the ballad of Jack Johnson by Charles R. Smith, Jr. Illus. by Shane W. Evans, Roaring Brook Press
8th Grade Super Zero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. Arthur A. Levine Books.
Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John. Dial Books
Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Little Brown.
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. Clarion Books.
Lost Boy, Lost Girl; escaping civil war in Sudan by John Bul Dau. National Geographic
Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins. Charlesbridge
Thunder Over Kandahar by Sharon E. McKay. Annick Press.
A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata. Atheneum Books
Warriors in the Crossfire by Nancy Bo Flood. Front Street Books
The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan. Drawings by Peter Sis, Scholastic Press
Zora and Me by Victoria Bond & T.R. Simon. Candlewick Press.
Heart of a Samurai; based on the true story of Nakahama Manjiro. by Margi Preus. Amulet Books.
The Firefly Letters; a suffragette’s journey to Cuba by Margarita Engle. Henry Holt.
The Good Garden by Kate Smith Milway. Illus. by Sylvie Daigneault. Kids Can Press.
Birmingham Sunday by Larry Dane Brimner. Calkins Creek.
They Called Themselves the KKK by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Houghton Mifflin.
Sugar Changed the World by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos. Clarion Books.