Children’s and Young Adult Literature Conference November 4

Educators of young children can inspire a lifelong appreciation for nature.

For this reason, Northland College is hosting its first-ever Children’s and Young Adult Literature Conference on Friday, November 4 for educators of all types—including librarians, teachers, childcare providers, parents, and college students in education-related fields.

This one-day symposium focuses on the connections between literature and the natural world for children and young adults. Presentations and session topics will explore ways for educators to integrate environmental ideas through reading and language arts.

“When kids read, they are in the mind of the writer, they enter another person’s pattern of thinking—that’s a tremendously expansive moment,” said Clayton Russell, associate professor of environmental and outdoor education at Northland College. “Literature lets us appreciate places we may never get to like Alaska and Antarctica. We can become a constituency for the protection for those areas, and the conservation of ideas and imagination.”

Northland College, as a liberal arts institution focused on sustainability and the environment, is ideally positioned to hold this conference, Russell said.

Northland is also home to the annual Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Awards (SONWA). The 2015 children’s and young adult literature award winners will present at the conference.

Aimee Bissonette will give the morning keynote address: “Building Nature Connections with Children—Why it Matters.” She is the author of North Woods Girl and the recipient of the SONWA for Children’s Literature.

“Educators are ideally situated to help kids connect with nature,” said Bissonette. “Educators can take kids out of the classroom to natural settings. They can also bring natural items into the classroom for study and discussion.”

Studies show that nature-based, experiential education improves academic performance, self esteem, creativity, and more. And, as with many things, timing is important.

“Many authorities believe there is a slim window of time within which young children are most apt to develop a respect for and a bond with the natural world,” Bissonette said. “Educators are in an ideal position to take advantage of that window.”

Iowa City-based author/illustrator Claudia McGehee will speak about the inspiration she finds for her artwork in nature. She illustrated Bissonette’s North Woods Girl, and received a SONWA honorable mention for My Wilderness: An Alaskan Adventure.

“That connection between nature and literature imparts to kids the role nature plays in our lives,” says McGehee. “The more you see, the more you understand. It becomes a part of who you are.”

Nancy Bo Flood, author of Water Runs Through This Book, will give the afternoon keynote. She is the winner the SONWA for Young Adult literature.

“Two things are so important for effective teaching,” Flood says. “First, engaging the students to actually become involved in doing something and become part of the process. We all love discovery – that’s exciting.”

The second important piece for effective teaching is the power of story, says Flood. “Stories are the ways we get to somebody’s heart. If we get to their heart, they’re going to remember, they’re going to be motivated, and they’re going to become caring people.”

Conference activities focus on practical ways for educators to integrate environmental ideas through reading and language arts. Activities will also help educators meet state common core standards. Registration is required. The cost is $85. Registration is closed.

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