CCB to host events centered on Asian American history

Sara Schwebel
Sara L. Schwebel, Professor and Director of the Center for Children's Books
Sarah Park Dahlen
Sarah Park Dahlen, Associate Professor

In 2022, Illinois became the first state in the nation to mandate the teaching of Asian American community history in public elementary and secondary high schools. The Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History (TEAACH) Act ensures that every K-12 student in Illinois learns about the contributions of Asian Americans to the economic, cultural, social, and political development of the United States. To mark the implementation of this act, the Center for Children's Books (CCB) is hosting a series of events for the 2022-2023 academic year.

"The Center for Children's Books applauds Illinois' lead in enacting the TEAACH Act and stands ready to support the state (and nation)'s educators as they work to ensure that all children gain both content knowledge in Asian American history and the literacy skills that enable them to think historically," said Sara L. Schwebel, professor and CCB director. "During this inaugural year of the act's implementation, we are bringing authors, artists, historians, literacy experts, and educators to the Center to engage in conversation."

The first event, "How Youth Literature Can Support the Teaching of Asian American Community History," will be held on September 28 from 5:00-6:00 p.m. Central Time via Zoom. Moderated by Associate Professor Sarah Park Dahlen, it will feature award-winning authors Adib Khorram (Darius the Great is Not Okay), Minh LĂȘ (Drawn Together, illustrated by Dan Santat), Rajani LaRocca (Red, White, and Whole), and Andrea Wang (Watercress, illustrated by Jason Chin).

"Asian American history is American history, and we can and must ensure that our histories are shared with young people, whether in the classroom or through their books," said Dahlen, whose research addresses diversity in children's literature. "A deeper understanding of Asian American communities and histories can dispel stereotypes, cultivate empathy, and equip people in anti-racist advocacy."

The second event in the series, "A Conversation Between Award-Winning Writer Christina Soontornvat and Professor Sarah Park Dahlen," will be held on November 1 from 12:00-1:00 p.m. via Zoom. Soontornvat is an author, educator, and mechanical engineer who won two Newbery Honors in 2021 for her children's books A Wish in the Dark and All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team.

The series will continue in the spring semester with a roundtable discussion on the history of efforts to diversify the U.S. history curriculum on March 7 and the 2023 Gryphon Lecture on March 20. For the lecture, which will be held at 12:00 p.m. in a hybrid format, Sohyun An, professor of social studies education at Kennesaw State University, will present "Using Asian American Children's Literature as a Tool to Resist America's Long History of Anti-Asian Violence." Together with the iSchool's journal, Research on Diversity in Youth Literature, the CCB will also host an Emerging Scholars of Asian American Youth Literature panel, date TBA.

"PK-12 school librarians are instructional partners and collaborate with other educators to help students meet curriculum standards and lesson objectives," added School Librarian Program Coordinator Ruth Shasteen. "Increasing understanding of the TEAACH Act and learning strategies for using literature to support the implementation will strengthen their role as culturally responsive teachers and leaders in their learning community."

All events are free and open to the public. Contributing sponsors include the Humanities Research Institute; Asian American Cultural Center; Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership in the College of Education; and the Department of Asian American Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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