Children’s Book Center supports educators amid book bans

'We're the only long-standing institution that provides these services in the way that we do,' CCBC director says

· Apr 4, 2023 Tweet

Janani Sundar/The Badger Herald

Three Republican senators introduced a bill which would require public schools and libraries to remove any book considered harmful or offensive to minors at the end of January.

According to WORT 89.9, the bill would also require teachers to publish their curriculum so parents could remove their children from a course presenting objectionable material.

The University of Wisconsin campus is home to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, an organization dedicated to promoting strong works of literature for children and young adults.

One core service the CCBC provides is their intellectual freedom information services. They provide free and confidential resources to educators and librarians in Wisconsin that are dealing with book challenges, CCBC Director Tessa Michaelson Schmidt said.

These challenges vary but often have to do with literature being reconsidered and challenged to be in classrooms and libraries across the nation. The CCBC provides statewide resources to share with those that need information on specific titles, according to Schmidt. 

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The CCBC is also nationally recognized for its diversity statistics, which are calculated when cataloging and reading new literature.

CCBC staff collects data on who is publishing, writing, illustrating and translating stories, as well as the book’s subject matter. The staff looks for characteristics in this data relevant to race, ethnicity, LGBTQIA identities and religion and publish their findings annually, Schmidt said. 

Operated by the UW School of Education, the CCBC also provides literary recommendations for individuals, instructors and institutions across Wisconsin and the U.S.

The center was established in 1963 as a joint venture between Wisconsin and UW, according to Schmidt.

“The intention was that it would be an examination center based on the university but available for anyone around the state to study the latest in books published for children and young adults,” Schmidt said.

CCBC staff reads and reviews recently published literature that they receive from publishers of all sizes or books that deserve review. Of the books, they curate a list of recommendations — called CCBC Choices.

The CCBC curates this list from a significant sample of books published in the most recent year. The most recently released CCBC Choices list featured 211 titles that were selected from a sample of 0ver 4,000 books, according to Schmidt.

The CCBC then recommends many of these books to librarians and educators in the field during monthly book discussions, Schmidt said.

“Reading and selecting those books is the bulk of what we do,” Schmidt said. “We are always recommending books from the current year’s choices as well as past year’s choices in our book talks with librarians and educators in the field.”

In addition to organizing collections of children’s and young adult literature, the CCBC staff provides on-site outreach and education presentations to classes on the UW campus and across the state of Wisconsin.

The CCBC also works with people interested in researching children’s literature or those interested in illustrating or writing children’s books, receiving funding from both UW and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Schmidt said.

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The CCBC is also nationally recognized for their Charlotte Zolotow Award.

Charlotte Zolotow, a UW graduate, was an author and editor of over 70 picture books at Harper Junior Books, according to the CCBC website. To honor her dedication to literature, her editor got in touch with the CCBC and together, they came up with the award in her name and honor in 1998.  

The CCBC staff looks for works that provide a new way of thinking about our lives as human beings, CCBC librarian Merri Lindgren said. 

Lindgren said the Charlotte Zolotow Award is given to an author every January for a picture book published in the past 12 months.

A five-person committee, consisting of librarians, teachers and early childhood professionals, nominates 25-35 books to be considered for the award. In January, the same committee will meet and choose a winner.

“We send out information to publishers in the U.S. and Canada, which we started including last year,” Lindgren said. “We let them know who’s on the committee and encourage them to submit physical books.”

Books do not have to submitted by authors themselves to be considered for the award as the committee searches for potential candidates, which is not the case for all awards. Most recently, the CCBC awarded author Michelle Edwards the award for her book “Me and the Boss: A Story about Mending and Love,” according to a press release

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Though the CCBC is operated by the School of Education, Schmidt encourages students of all majors to come to the CCBC to see how the center can help support them in their studies at UW. 

“We have books that go to any aspect of study,” Schmidt said. “Whether it’s astrophysics, physics or dance, or really anything, we have books related to that topic that are really engaging and accessible and sometimes a lot more accessible than the textbooks.” 

The CCBC is a unique and trusted resource that makes Wisconsin and UW stand out across the nation, according to Schmidt.

It is the longest-standing institution that adequately provides resources for state educators and librarians during book challenges, which have become quite an issue in recent years, according to Schmidt.

“As far as we know, we’re the only long-standing institution that provides these services in the way that we do,” Schmidt said.

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This article was published Apr 4, 2023 at 12:00 pm and last updated Apr 2, 2023 at 4:43 pm

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