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Faculty member to help select top children's nonfiction books

  |   Kristen B. Morales   |   Permalink   |   Kudos,   Service and Community

A College of Education professor recently began a term with the National Council of Teachers of English to help select the annual Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction.

Jennifer Graff, associate professor in the Department of Language and Literacy Education, will serve a three-year term on the committee that selects top nonfiction books for children. Established in 1989, the Orbis Pictus Award recognizes and promotes excellence in nonfiction writing for children, and names a winner, up to five "honor" books and eight "recommended" books every year.

Graff said nonfiction books are one way to foster independent inquiry among children, and being a part of the committee is a chance to promote a love of reading along with a desire to inquire about the world around us.

"I love seeing how nonfiction literature invites children into personal and academic journeys that extend beyond the page or screen" she said. "In an era of intense pressure and scrutiny in classrooms, nonfiction literature can remind us of our innate curiosity-our natural penchant for exploration-as well as the benefits of failure and the complexities of success."

She said research indicates children prefer nonfiction literature, especially during the primary grades, and contemporary nonfiction books continue to push the boundaries of what makes a narrative, and the role of these narratives in our lives.

"It's a great time to be in the world of nonfiction literature," she added.

Graff also chairs the K-4 Children's Picturebook Award category for the annual Georgia Children's Book Awards and Conference on Children's literature, which is hosted by the College of Education and takes place March 18-19 at the UGA Hotel and Conference Center. The event features award-winning authors and illustrators, a spotlight on a local author and winning books selected by students from across the state. The conference also offers professional learning for teachers, media specialists, librarians and other educators.

Along with selecting annual winners for the Orbis Pictus Award, Graff and fellow committee members will also organize nonfiction-focused sessions at the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English, and also work to promote the use of nonfiction children's books in classrooms.

The annual award is named in commemoration of the 1657 book "Orbis Pictus-the World in Pictures," which is considered to be the first nonfiction book printed for children.

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