The Children’s Literature Council of Southern California’s 2016 Fall Gala

In September, 2016, I was honored once again to be asked to write the feature article for the CLCSC’s annual gala. It was, as always, a wonderful event, a literature lover’s heaven. Below is my article. The article with event photographs can be found on  CLCSC’s homepage.

October 8, 2016

The 2016 Fall Gala: Connect, Support, and Celebrate
by Rita Zobayan

Something about being in a room packed full of book lovers speaks to my heart. Maybe it’s the like-mindedness, the understanding that books are important not only in education but also in life. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that whether your favorite genre is picture books, middle grade, or young adult, your appreciation of children’s literature provides a common ground. So it was with a happy heart that I attended the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California’s 2016 Fall Gala held in the Luminarias Restaurant.

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President Laurie Reese welcomed the attendees–librarians, educators, authors, illustrators, book reviewers, and literature lovers. She recognized the Board and presented the organization’s mantra of “Connect, Support, and Celebrate.”

Katherine Loeser, Co-First Vice President, then introduced the keynote speaker, the venerable Sharon M. Draper, explaining how Out of My Mind “changed me as a person. These are real people. Thank you for introducing me to histories and stories I didn’t know.” Ms. Draper, an author with a multitude of honors to her credit, began by describing her appreciation for the connection between books and learning. She spoke about the power of a story, the power of words and how words “make us whole. We have the privilege of reading, writing, and sharing them. If you know how to tell a good story, you can do anything.” Ms. Draper’s exposure to the power of words began at age three, when her mother took her to a library. The gleaming floors, sunlight dancing through windows, smell of books, and the card catalogues written in perfect cursive mesmerized Ms. Draper, and she knew she’d found a place for herself. By age ten, she’d read all the books for elementary students, and was given a card for the adult section. Ms. Draper explained, “I learned a lot at the library.” She never noticed as a child that there were no books with children that looked like her. No one questioned it because that was the world they knew. At age 12, Ms. Draper read Forbidden City, which was her first venture into a culture outside of the USA. She recalls that the book “stayed with me,” and she later became the State Department’s Literary Ambassador to the children in China. She read chapter one of her book, Out of My Mind, and explained, “I knew I had to give voice to someone who was voiceless. The books come to me.” A very touching story was Ms. Draper’s recollection of her father’s request to write a story about his mother, who had to quit school at age 10 to work. She kept journals and would write on her porch, and one of the journals was passed down to Ms. Draper. Stella by Starlight is the product. Ms. Drapers’ grandmother’s words aren’t in the book, but the premise of Stella writing a journal on the porch is.  Ms. Draper concluded her speech with “There is a book for a child. Just one book can make an impact.”

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Maxine Lucas then presented the award for Outstanding Work of Fiction, which was awarded to Pam Munoz Ryan for Echo. Ms. Munoz Ryan was on tour and sent her thanks for the honor.

The Outstanding Picture Book Award was presented by Meredith Kent McGowan to Antoinette Portis for Wait. Ms. Portis recalled her journey to becoming an author/illustrator from writing and drawing in sixth grade to working in advertising and for Disney to taking classes at UCLA Extension and the Art Center.

Katherine Adams presented the winner for the Excellence in Illustration Award, Vincent X. Kirsch for Gingerbread for Liberty. Mr. Kirsch recounted his work as a designer of gingerbread cookies for Dean and DeLuca. He stated, “I had so much fun with this book. It was a game for me. I am in the business of ‘wild imaginings’ and they can turn into anything. Pursue your wildest imaginings because you never know…they could become a book one day.”

The Peggy Miller Award for Young Adult Literature was presented by Rachel Lizotte to Noelle Stevenson for Nimona. Ms. Stevens was unable to attend but sent her thanks.

Laurie Reese took the stage once more to present the Dorothy C. McKenzie Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Field of Children’s Literature to Marjorie Arnett. Ms. Arnett is a former educator and one of the three individuals who helped found the annual Charlotte S. Huck Children’s Literature Festival. A major influence on Ms. Arnett was her parents’ examples of hard work and community service. Her father read a lot of Little Golden Books to her, and by age four, Ms. Arnett was reading to her younger siblings. Her parents advised her to “follow whatever path made you happy,” and that lead to education. Her siblings and she were the grandchildren of sharecroppers, and all of them went to college. Ms. Arnett’s mission has been to bring children and books together through “mirrors and windows”: having children see themselves portrayed in literature.  Whatever she has been involved in, she has pursued with the lesson she learned from her family: “to attack life with a passion.”

The event ended with the joy of feeling connected, supported, and celebrated.

We Need Diverse Books: The Children’s Literature Council of Southern California Spring Workshop

The Children’s Literature Council of Southern California  hosted a workshop titled “We Need Diverse Books.” Authors and Illustrators, as well as CLCSC members and guests, discussed the state of the children’s publishing industry and their own experiences with diverse books and the lack thereof. The event was emceed by Stacey Lee and included Lisa Yee, Nicola Yoon, Brandy Colbert, Stephanie Diaz, Lissa Price, Rodolfo Montalvo, Joe Cepeda, and Dan Santat. I had the honor of writing the official newsletter article, “We Need Diverse Books,” The CLC Spring Workshop: A Thought-Provoking Afternoon.” You can find the article in its entirety here.

 

 

The Glendale News-Press Featured Our Project!

I’m very excited that the Glendale News-Press has deemed our Kickstarter project worthy of coverage. You can find the article here. I hope you read it and if you’re inspired, please donate to our fund. We are really hoping to make a difference with this show. Thank you.

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Reilly’s Life on Kickstarter

Please join our Kickstarter campaign!

Reilly’s Life is an animated series aimed at children who have autism. The show will provide a forum that demonstrates to autistic children, their families, caregivers, practitioners and general audiences that they are not alone in this world and society values and appreciates their experience as autistic individuals. It is a tool in the acceptance and awareness of autistic behaviors that we hope will help society embrace autism as a rich and diverse way of living in this world. It shows some of the challenges faced by children with autism and possible solutions that may help, or at least facilitate a basic understanding of the challenges faced by Reilly.

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Reilly’s Life is created by Sinead Clancy. She is mother to a ten-year-old son with autism. After the initial diagnosis she followed the usual path of blame, anger, fear and looked for the elusive “cure.” But quickly she realized that autism was as much a part of her son as breathing and she now embraces his autistic way of being. Finding a path for him where he could co-exist in a world where autism and autistic identity is not embraced or fully understood sowed the seeds for Reilly’s Life.

Each episode will be 10 minutes of 2D animation followed by a live action bumper that shows children or adults experiencing the unique strengths and challenges of autism in the context of the episode. The show highlights the breadth and depth of autistic life while dealing with some of the common challenges and barriers children with autism face.

 The name is pulled from Sinead’s Irish roots. Someone who is enjoying life to the fullest with no worries is said to have “the life of Reilly.”

Reilly’s life, an animated show for children with autism

Today is Autism Awareness Day and April is Autism Awareness Month. My friend Sinéad Clancy has been working hard to put together a project close to her heart. Reilly’s life is an animated show for children who have autism. As the show’s script writer, I believe this project can help create awareness and acceptance for children on the spectrum. Please check out www.reillyslife.com and please share.

Reilly's life

Reilly’s life

Thank you, everyone!

Woo-hoo, We Did It!

Thank you so much to everyone who helped raise money to help stem illiteracy in the US and around the world. World Education has been able to raise almost $22,000 to fight illiteracy through their #pages4progress campaign. Here’s the good news!

Reading Rocks!

Reading Rocks!

 That’s the good news, but the fight isn’t over! According to UNESCO EFA Global Monitoring Report Policy Paper, June 2014, 58 million children ages 6-11 won’t be returning to school. And, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,  in the US, over 30 million adults don’t have a high school diploma and 20% of US adults with a high school diploma have only beginning literacy skills. There’s more work to be done, but, importantly, it can be done.

Please join World Education and sign a public letter (via Change.org) to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations Global Education First Initiative Steering Committee calling for increased attention and resources worldwide to achieve universal access to primary education. 

On September 24, take to social media and create a thunderclap in honor of the second anniversary of Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s Global Education First Initiative.

Education is a huge part in erasing poverty, most especially for women and children in developing countries. To be able to read is to be able to start the path out of poverty. If you care, please share.