SCBWI Sponsors NCTE Panels

Photo: (l-r) Tammy Brown, Marketing Director; Chana Stiefel, author; Dawn Quigley, author; Sarah Baker, Executive Director (not pictured: panelist Darshana Khiani, author) Title of session: “Cultivating Connections: Engaging with Diverse Texts to Foster Empathy.”


There’s more than one way to engage in a conference that can effectively enhance the visibility and impact of SCBWI and its members. SCBWI participated in the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference in Columbus, Ohio, by sponsoring twelve of our members to attend the event. Through the presentations from our talented and insightful PAL members, SCBWI had an impact on enlightening teachers from across the US about how they can use children’s books to build bridges in the classroom. 

Our road to NCTE started when we solicited proposals built upon connections from PAL members. NCTE President-elect Shelley Rodrigo remarked, “How do we make connections with people and ideas that are different from ourselves.” That was the theme of this year’s NCTE conference – connections around diversity of people, ideas, environments, and cultures – and three outstanding proposals were selected from a deep pool of excellent entries from SCBWI members.

The big takeaway from NCTE was that compelling stories written, illustrated, and translated by SCBWI members have the power to reach children, young adults, educators, and families with their messages about inclusion, empathy, and diversity. This was our inaugural foray into sponsoring members to be part of a national platform for sharing their work.

First up at the convention was the session “Cultivating Connections: Engaging with Diverse Texts to Foster Empathy.” Submitted by members Darshana Khiani (who was unable to attend but contributed to the presentation), Dawn Quigley, and Chana Stiefel, this presentation invited teachers to “come explore new connections by disrupting stereotypes and practicing activities for teaching culturally affirming texts with Jewish, South Asian, and Native American authors. Audience members will gain insights for including these texts in supporting Social Emotional Learning with ELA [English Language Arts] Common Core Standards.” Chana, Dawn, and Darshana gave wonderful examples of how learning about cultures outside your own can open up a world of understanding, whether it was through the amazing life story of a Holocaust survivor and historian told by Chana, Dawn telling the story of the importance of family and community through the eyes of a 7-year-old Ojibwe protagonist, or Darshana telling a story about the realities and thrills of what makes up our great American tapestry of people and cultures.

Next was a presentation entitled “Quintessential Literary Connections: Centering Black Community in the Classroom", which was described as "four award-winning Black children’s book authors sharing experiences and strategies for building community in classroom environments. This session will incorporate inclusive literature from the African Diaspora as tools to foster connection across regions, cultures, and generations. A curated book list will be provided to attendees.” Members Tameka Fryer Brown, Sharon Langley, Kelly Starling Lyons, and Torrey Maldonado used touching personal stories and insights into how stories like those found in their best-selling books can inform teachers and readers about the diversity of the Black diaspora that reaches people from the Caribbean to Afro-Latinos to African-Americans, and show how family, friends, and all that makes up a Black child’s life can be shared in the classroom with students to foster empathy and understanding.

Our final panel was “Using Authentic Stories About People with Disabilities to Advocate and Be Inclusive of All Students.” Members Zainab Khan, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Halli Gomez, Katie Mazeika, Jen Malia, and Sunshine Bacon brought the message that “disabled authors write from their own lived experiences. This panel explores ways that teachers at all levels can use fiction and nonfiction to create a more inclusive classroom. It will show teachers how to affirm and empower disabled and neurodiverse students while modeling supportive communities that advocate for all students.”

The panel shared how disability has many faces, some seen and some unseen. They enlightened the teachers by using personal narratives to show that learning from each other about life challenges opens our eyes to understanding each other. 

This was a fulfilling experience for all of us representing SCBWI. The creative vision of our members is instrumental in teaching educators about connections in our own community!

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(l-r) back row - Tammy Brown, Marketing Director; Sarah Baker, Executive Director (l-r) front row: Torrey Maldonado, author; Sharon Langely, author; Temeka Fryer Brown, author; Kelly Starling Lyons, author Title of session: “Quintessential Literary Connections: Centering Black Community in the Classroom.”

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(l-r) back row - Tammy Brown, Marketing Director; Sarah Baker, Executive Director; Sunshine Bacon, author;
(l-r) front row - Lyn Miller-Lachmann, author; Katie Mazeika, author-illustrator; Jen Malia, author; Zainab Khan, author; Halli Gomez, author Title of session: “Using Authentic Stories About People with Disabilities to Advocate and Be Inclusive of All Students.”

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Sarah Baker and Kelly Starling Lyons

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Sarah Baker and Tammy Brown with Ohio: Central and South member Linda Miller