CCB collaboration receives award from the Organization of American Historians

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

A collaborative project of the iSchool's Center for Children's Books (CCB) and the National Park Service (NPS) has been honored by the Organization of American Historians. The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, which features the Books to Parks website, received the Stanton-Horton Award, which recognizes "excellence in National Park Service historical efforts that make the NPS a leader in promoting public understanding of and engagement with American history."

Last fall, the CCB and NPS introduced a Books to Parks website on Christopher Paul Curtis' Newbery Honor-winning book, The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963, to enrich students' understanding of the civil rights movement and help inspire participation in efforts to dismantle racism and secure social justice. The site was launched in September 2023 in conjunction with in-person events—reaching thousands of students, hundreds of teachers, and dozens of community partners—to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the September 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that claimed the lives of four little girls.

The website includes a reading guide for each chapter of the book with archival images and fact-checking sections that connect the novel to history and introduce primary sources for students to use in answering questions about the book. Lesson plans help teachers guide students to think historically and process the emotional weight of traumatic events. The "Voices From the Field" section expands on the book's themes, exposing students to current academic scholarship.

The Watsons Go To Birmingham

"The Watsons Go To Birmingham-1963 is a widely-taught middle grade novel, so the site has the potential to enrich many young people's understanding of both the mid-century civil rights movement and systemic racism," said CCB Director Sara L. Schwebel.

Schwebel developed the content for the website with then-CCB research assistants Joshua Altshuler (MSLIS '22), Christina Sallis (MSLIS '22), and Mia Walter (MSLIS '22), in partnership with colleagues at the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. 

"iSchool students working at the CCB were the central researchers for this rich interpretative and curricular website," said Schwebel. "Their work was just phenomenal, and I’m so pleased it was recognized."

In 2018, the Books to Park website on Island of the Blue Dolphins, which includes Schwebel's earlier work on the Lone Woman and Last Indians digital archive, now hosted by the iSchool, won the Stanton-Horton award.

"The CCB continues its ongoing partnership with NPS and is currently working on two additional Books to Park interpretive sites," said Schwebel.

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