2019 Children's Literature Conference

2019 Logo

Hosted by IUPUI & IU East | June 13 - 15, 2019
Indianapolis, Indiana | Westin Indianapolis

Theme: Activism and Empathy 


altIn 1960, Ruby Bridges broke the color line in a segregated Louisiana school system. In Indiana in the 1980s, Ryan White challenged cultural stigmas against individuals living with AIDS. In 2012, Malala Yousefzai survived an assassination attempt in Pakistan to become a global voice for young women’s access to education. In 2018, American high school students are active contributors to Black Lives Matter and other movements for social change, and are organizing nationwide protests against gun violence in their schools and communities. Children around the world today live at the front lines of battles created by adults. In a world divided by war, political tensions and environmental crises, ChLA invites you to reflect on the role of children and children’s literature in engaging with political concerns, promoting activism and/or cultivating empathy. How can we as scholars of children’s literature and culture listen to and amplify voices that have historically been silenced or ignored due to marginalization in its many forms?

We are delighted to host the 2019 conference in Indianapolis, where you can explore exhibits on the child-activists mentioned above at the world-renowned Indianapolis Children’s Museum. We are especially proud to announce that our Francelia Butler Lecture will be delivered by Dr. Michelle H. Martin, a leader in promoting children’s literacy, activism, and political power throughout her career as a teacher and scholar of children’s literature. 


We open this call for papers to an expansive array of topics covering the cultural and political impact of children’s literature and culture of the past and present. We encourage interdisciplinary approaches, including the visual and performing arts. We welcome a variety of formats, including individual papers, composed panels, or roundtables. Presentations might address questions like the following:

  • How are activism and empathy represented in or created by children’s literature and culture?

  • How are political, social, or environmental struggles portrayed in children’s literature from classics to twenty-first century books?

  • How does children’s literature and culture raise awareness and promote advocacy for people who have been silenced or ignored? How does it encourage readers to empathize with those who have been marginalized due to their race, ethnicity, nationality, class, culture, religion, gender, sexuality, age, and/or ability?

  • How is activism presented as protest, disruption, and resistance? Conversely, how does activism create community?

  • What literary figures emerge from the past and present to serve as models of activism and empathy for readers today? 

  • How do reading and writing function as forms of activism or empathy? What is the role of empathy in cultivating discourse and communication?

  • What literary genres have been successful, or less successful, in raising global awareness—picture books, graphic texts, historical fiction, realistic fiction, dystopian or speculative fiction, or other? 

  • What other media have allowed children to address world problems, both in fiction and in real life — music? graphic art? film? journalism? performance? social media?

  • What is the role of digital culture in promoting or disrupting activism and empathy-building?

  • How have children made an impact as participants or leaders in social, political, or environmental movements of the past or present?

  • How are children and children’s literature and culture used across the historical and political spectrum for a variety of political purposes?

Come to Indianapolis, the Crossroads of America, to consider where our ideas might meet at the crossroads of open conversation and common goals. We hope to see you in 2019.

2019 Francelia Butler Lecture Dr. Michelle H. Martin

Michell Martin
The Francelia Butler Lecture will be delivered by Dr. Michelle H. Martin, Beverly Cleary Professor for Children and Youth Services at the University of Washington. Martin’s work on social justice as a librarian, educator, and scholar is changing our perceptions of the role of children’s literature in our field and in the world. 


Featured Speakers

Francesca ZappiaFrancesca Zappia is the author of Made You Up (2015) and Eliza and Her Monsters (2017). She was the recipient of the 2017 Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Emerging Author Award, and her work has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s WeeklyBooklist, and School Library JournalMade You Up was selected as Indiana’s book for the 2018 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. She lives in Indiana and spends her time writing, drawing, and hunting ghosts.


Christopher MyersChristopher Myers is an award-winning author and illustrator and fine artist. Myers is the acclaimed illustrator of Love: Selected Poems by E. E. Cummings; Harlem: A Poem, a Caldecott Honor Book; Jazz, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book; Blues Journey, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book. He is also the author-illustrator of Black Cat and H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination, both Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Books; We Are America: A Tribute from the HeartA Time to Love: Stories from the Old TestamentLooking Like MeWings; and Fly! While he is widely acclaimed for his work with literature for young people, he is also an accomplished fine artist who has lectured and exhibited internationally. His practice can be divided into two categories, interventions in historical narratives and work crafted with artisans from around the globe from places as disparate as Egypt, Vietnam, Indonesia and Brooklyn.


Floyd CooperWith more than 100 children’s books published, Cooper has established himself as a master craftsman of children’s literature and illustration. He has received numerous awards and praise for his work. Just a few include the 2009 Coretta Scott King Award for The Blacker the Berry; three Coretta Scott King Honors Books (Brown Honey and Broomwheat Tea, Danitra Brown, and I Have Heard of a Land); the 2013 NAACP Image Award for Mandela; the INDIEFAB Gold Medal and the 2016 Silver Medal Nautilus Award for Juneteenth For Mazie; and most recently the 2020 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award. Cooper travels extensively, sharing his talents at schools and conferences across America.

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The 2019 conference logo was designed by IUPUI student Kennedy Franklin, based on an original painting by Indiana artist Daniel Moosbrugger.