2017 YALSA Elections: AN INTERVIEW WITH YALSA NONFICTION AWARD CANDIDATE Christina Dorr, Ph.D.

Get ready to vote! The YALSA election runs from March 13 through April 5, and to help you be an informed voter, we’re sharing interviews with each of the 2017 YALSA Governance and 2019 Selection Committee candidates.

Today we’ll hear from a candidate for the 2019 Nonfiction Award. Members on this committee serve a fifteen month term. The committee consists of nine members including a chair. Four members and the chair are appointed and the remaining four members will be elected by the membership of YALSA.

The Nonfiction Award committee’s primary job is to select the best nonfiction title published for young adults between Nov. 1 and Oct. 31 of the current year.

A full description of the committee’s duties and responsibilities can be found here.

Full biographical information on all of the candidates can be found on the sample ballot and YALSA Election FAQs here.

Today we have an interview with Christina Dorr, Ph.D.

Name and current position: Christina Dorr, Ph.D., Media Specialist, Hilliard Weaver Middle School/Adjunct Faculty, Kent State University

Talk about the experiences and expertise you’re bringing to the award committee in terms of material evaluation and selection, and as working as part of a team.

What’s better than a gripping story – that just happens to be true?!  I’ve shared nonfiction with my students over the years, book talked the best nonfiction books, and built a collection that showcases great nonfiction for my teens.  I also, put together a new genre section called “Nonfiction That Reads Like Fiction” and shelved it with the fiction, which has drawn a crowd!  Furthermore, I share the best of the best of nonfiction with my pre-service Librarians at Kent State University.

I’ve served on many state and national book award committees, some of them devoted to nonfiction, either partially or in total.  To name a few: 2006 & 2007 ALSC Notable Children’s Books; 2015 & 2016 EMIERT Coretta Scott King Jury; 2017 & Chairing 2018 GLBTRT Youth Stonewall Committee; 2011, 2013, & 2015 Norman A. Sugarman Committee through Cleveland Public Library for the best in children’s & YA biographies.

I’ve also co-written a book on biographies, and am currently co-writing a book on GLBTQIA+ books for children and YA’s.  Over a 20-year span I’ve writing articles, columns, book reviews, and presented on literature and literacy for state and national organizations.

Talk about the ways you’ve leveraged literature with teens to address some of the issues that negatively impact their lives.

I share diverse literature with my teens in many ways.  They include: book talks, book clubs, Battle Over Books, Twitter, author visits, displays, literature circles, and collaboration with other schools, to name a few.  In all cases, I try to get literature in the hands of my students that allow them to see themselves and their issues, and share titles that allow them to see others and their issues.  It’s crucial to teach all children and YA’s that empathy is important, and from that, activism.  

What are some ways award-winning titles can be used to help teens acquire critical skills across multiple literacies?

As I mentioned above, I feel teaching children empathy is of utmost importance.  But there are many other crucial skills, including creativity, communication, and critical thinking, that need to be taught.  Award-winning books, and national book lists, indicate the best of the best literature for children and YA’s.  Especially with nonfiction, the books are well researched, present all sides of a story, and share the positive and negative aspects of the topic.  And they are presented in creative attractive formats.  What better way to share critical skills than through excellent nonfiction?!

Serving on an award committee requires strict confidentiality and high ethical standards.  What actions would you take to ensure there were no lapses in confidentiality or ethics?

As I’ve stated above, I’ve served on several state and national award book committees and understand well the requirements, and importance, of confidentiality.  I don’t write reviews on any books under consideration; if I booktalk with students, I include only a summary; if I post a book on Goodreads, I don’t comment on it.  I share none of our deliberations with anyone, and keep the standards of the committee high.

Why should YALSA members choose you to be a member of this award committee?

Because I’m passionate about children’s and YA’s literature and have been throughout my nearly 30-year career.  I’ve touched the lives of thousands of children by sharing the best of the best books, as indicated through award winners and best books lists.  I’ve loved making a difference on many other committees and would throw myself into the work of the YALSA Nonfiction Committee with gusto!

About Casey McCoy

Casey McCoy is a Librarian at San Jose Public Library and earned her MSLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014. She has a passion for working with teens as well as discovering ways to use technology as a community engagement tool. Her thoughts on libraries, technology and attempts at adulting can be found on Twitter @CayMcCoy.
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