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2020 Trends in Global Literature for Children and Adolescents

by Kathy G. Short, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

This month, WOW Currents highlights the trends in global books published in the U.S. between Summer 2019 and 2020. Each summer, I work on an update for the K-12 global reading lists, fiction and nonfiction, to post on the Worlds of Words website. Exploring possible book titles, reading reviews and analyzing themes provides insights into patterns across this annual collection of global books. This post overviews these trends and the subsequent weekly posts each examine one trend in more depth with examples of books. Continue reading

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Big Events, Strong Emotions: Anger

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

Angry Man Cover depicts Young boy with straight brown hair and a grave expression in lower right corner.This past week, I was at my local grocery store, masked and intent on finding the items on my list. As I swung around the corner with my buggy (obeying the one way directional arrows on the floor), a young man walked toward me, clearly not obeying the directional arrows. Furthermore he was not wearing a mask (required in all buildings in the state of Illinois). I was ticked–why did he think he could skip the mask, not follow the arrows telling him where to walk, and endanger my health??? For a moment I debated asking about his required mask, but I quickly dropped the idea and ignored him. My anger was safely bottled up and shared only with people as we discussed behaviors that keep us safe. But that is not the case for many across the country, as people express their anger at racism, the pandemic restrictions and any other big or little thing that has happened (e.g., the sun was too bright; my internet crashed yet again). Understandably, we are reacting to the tension of the difficult past months and an unknown future. As adults, we struggle to remain calm and not overreact. If we ourselves are learning how to express our frustrations in this new time, it points to the necessity of helping kids express and deal with their strong emotions, particularly the focus this week: anger. Continue reading

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Big Events, Strong Emotions: Grief

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

Cover for Paws + Edward depicts a boy in repose on the back of a giant romping dog.These past few months have given us plenty of big issues to think about with children. The pandemic has impacted daily life in families, communities, the economy and what the future looks like. If that is not enough, we are now grappling with overt racism as we hear of prejudice against Asian-Americans and police brutality towards African Americans. Immigration policy and deportations have taken a back seat in the news to race riots. The daily news has created fear and anxiety. Continue reading

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Language Hierarchies in Picturebooks

By Nicola Daly, The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato, New Zealand

A sign reading No matter where you're from, we're glad you're our neighbor in Spanish, English and Arabic on a green, blue and orange background As I mentioned in in my first post for WOW Currents, I am interested in bilingual and multilingual picturebooks and how they arrange the different language texts on the page. To frame my research in this area, I use a sociolinguistic lens called Linguistic Landscape. This approach is more commonly used to examine how languages are displayed in public spaces (for example a streetscape) on signage, and it is interpreted as a reflection of the status and vitality of languages and their associated communities. Which languages are on printed signs, and which are handwritten? When several languages are on one sign, which is larger, which is first? Continue reading

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Italicizing Non-English Words: The Case of Spanish in Picturebooks

By María V. Acevedo, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, San Antonio, TX
With Rebecca Ballenger, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

I read out loud All Around Us, by Xelena Gonzalez, illustrated by Adriana García, to a class of undergraduate students. When I read, “We eat what we’ve grown-crunchy lettuce, sweet carrots and spicy chiles,” one of my students said, “I love your Spanish accent.” Chiles is the only Spanish word in this picturebook and it is not italicized. The student’s comment made me think of picturebooks that highlight non-English words in one way or another and the implications of this practice to fictional characters and readers.

Cover art for La Princesa and the Pea shows a girl with a crown of flowers sitting atop multiple mismatched mattresses and a surly cat perched on the bed's footboard Continue reading

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Using Stories to Teach Life Lessons in the Classroom

By Asiye Demir, Lauren Hunt, Priscila Costa and Julia López-Robertson, University of South Carolina

Buried Beneath the Baobab TreeBuried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani (2018) tells the story of a girl who was kidnapped and forced to marry one of the militants of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Through the storyline of the novel, we witness their living standards, culture and religious practices. Last week we talked about our responses to this novel and since we are a diverse group of people, our responses were varied and had different aspects. Our group is made up of four teachers who have profound experiences with English language learners and other diverse student populations and as such this week we will approach our blog from the perspective of classroom applications. Continue reading

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Patriarchal Societies and Oppression of Women

By Lauren Hunt, Asiye Demir, Julia López-Robertson and Priscila Costa, University of South Carolina

Buried Beneath the Baobab TreeFor the next two blogs our discussion will focus on Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree, by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. This story is based on the experiences of girls captured by the extremist group, Boko Haram in Nigeria. Nwaubani (2018) writes, “since 2009, the terrorist group Boko Haram has been fighting an armed insurgency with the aim of creating an Islamic state in northern Nigeria. More than twenty thousand people have been killed and over two million displaced by the fighting” (p. 293). Boko Haram has wreaked havoc on Nigeria and its people, and the group received worldwide media coverage when they kidnapped 276 girls from a Chibok school. According to the BBC News, “Boko Haram was targeting [the girls] because of their opposition to Western education, which the militants believe corrupts the values of Muslims.” Nwaubani’s novel brings to light the struggles of the Nigerian people, especially its women, as a result of Boko Haram. Continue reading

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Forced Journeys in Children’s Literature, Part II

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona

Middle Eastern regions and Muslims have been unfailingly in the media and news. Children’s literature and Young Adult literature also tap into this trend and brings forward concerns faced by these regions, presently. Turmoil within the regions has become a predominant global concern since the refugee crises has brought the impact to Western shores, impacting their economy, balance of power, and in some cases, law and order. Most earlier books were written by people outside of the regions, thus, not true insiders to the cultures, raising concerns of authenticity. Commonly held trends as well as issues in literature about Muslims is that of migration, refugees, Muslim people at the center of strife and Muslim people as violent, blood thirsty terrorists. There is an issue when these assumptions, generalization, and stereotypes are taken as truths.

Forced Journey's in Children's Literature, Part II Continue reading

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Indigenous Own Voices after Sherman Alexie

By Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

I grew up on a steady diet of Island of the Blue Dolphins, Little House on the Prairie, Walk Two Moons, Julie of the Wolves, et cetera, stories with native content written by non-native authors. Before The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, I hadn’t read Cynthia Leitich Smith’s or Joseph Bruchac’s novels. But I had read Michael Dorris’ and Lousie Erdrich’s work for children, thanks to my love affair with Erdrich’s novels for adults. I hadn’t read any Indigenous Canadian authors writing for youth. Before The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, I offered my students and my children solely historical fiction about Indigenous identities and stories. Nothing contemporary, and so very little, sadly, Indigenous Own Voices.

Indigenous Own Voices Sherman Alexie Continue reading

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Limitations of Lexile Levels for Global Literature

By Kathy Short, The University of Arizona

The standards movement in the U.S. has placed a great deal of emphasis on Lexile levels as a means of determining the appropriateness of a book for a reader, using Lexiles to determine the complexity of a text. The assumption is that readers at each grade level band need to read books within specific Lexile levels or their reading achievement will be negatively affected. Teachers who do not challenge their students to read books within these bands are viewed as negligent in their teaching of reading and as handicapping students. These assumptions can be challenged from many perspectives, including the lack of research to support this position (Allington, McCuiston, & Billen, 2015). Other issues emerge with a close examination of the actual Lexile levels of exemplar texts and global literature.

Limits of Lexile Levels Continue reading