The Classroom Bookshelf
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The Classroom Bookshelf Welcomes a New Co-Author

We’re so pleased to announce that The Classroom Bookshelf has a new co-author, Dr. Denise Davila. In this post, she introduces herself: 

As a child, I never saw characters like myself in children’s books. Even now, less than six percent of U.S. published children’s books feature Latinx characters, as described by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center. Nevertheless, I took great comfort in reading and re-reading hand-me-down sets of Little Golden Books and Dr. Seuss early readers  that my sisters and I shared at home.  I was especially enchanted by Richard Scarry’s illustrations in an oversized board book version of I Am A Bunny (1963), written by  Ole Risom. I loved the saturated colors of the double-page spreads.  In elementary school, my favorite part of the day was listening to my teacher read.  No matter whether it was the Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (Blume, 1972) or Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery (Howe, 1979), I loved being swept into very different worlds from my own.    

As the first person in my family to attend university, I took multiple children’s literature courses and became an elementary school teacher in the Fruitvale District of Oakland, CA, which has long been home to families of many different cultures and languages.  It wasn’t until my early years of teaching that I fully understood the paucity in books by and for BIPOC communities as I searched for titles reflecting the life experiences of my students and our local neighborhood.  

When I started graduate school a few years later, I was intent on learning more about the world of children’s literature.  I earned a master’s degree in teaching reading and language arts with children’s literature.  Then, I completed the MFA program in Writing for Children at the  Vermont College of Fine Arts.  Finally, I earned a PhD in the Literature for Children and Young Adult program at The Ohio State University.  

Today, I am an Assistant Professor of children’s literature and literacy education at the University of Texas in Austin.  As a teacher educator, my primary objective is to support preservice and practicing teachers in not only curating and critically evaluating books by and for BIPOC communities, but also cultivating their own love of reading.  Over the years, I have met many novice and experienced teachers who feel shame for not viewing themselves as “readers.”  I feel my job is to help mitigate that shame and to help teachers ground themselves in children’s and young adult literature.    

 As a scholar, my research agenda investigates how children, families, and teachers respond to children’s books that are not only inclusive of BIPOC characters and life experiences, but also provide counter narratives to the kinds of stories that have historically dominated the children’s books industry.  In 2016, for my journal article, #WhoNeedsDiverseBooks?: Preservice Teachers and Religious Neutrality with Children’s Literature”, I won NCTE’s Alan C. Purves Award on Research and the Teaching of English, “presented annually to the author(s) of the Research in the Teaching of English article from the previous year’s volume judged as likely to have the greatest impact on educational practice.”

Currently, it has been my great privilege to serve as the chair of NCTE’s Orbis Pictus Committee for Outstanding Nonfiction, and a member of the National Committee for the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award. I was also a member of the American Library Association’s 2020 committee for the Dr. Theodor (Seuss) Geisel Award for beginning readers.  

 I am honored to join the blogging team of the Classroom Bookshelf.  I look forward to exploring with School Library Journal readers a range of  books and topics that support teachers in using children’s literature in the classroom.

Erika Thulin Dawes About Erika Thulin Dawes

Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.