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Award recognizes excellence in children’s books that portray Latin American culture

Sep. 23, 2016, 4:07 PM

The winning authors of the Americas Awards, joined by the award committee (l-r): co-coordinator Denise Woltering Vargas of Tulane University, committeewoman Paula Mason, committeewoman Denise Croker, author Pam Muñoz Ryan, author Ashley Hope Pérez, committeewoman Laura Kleinmann and co-cordinator Lisa Finelli of Vanderbilt University.
The winning authors of the Americas Awards, joined by the award committee (l-r): co-coordinator Denise Woltering Vargas of Tulane University, committeewoman Paula Mason, committeewoman Denise Croker, author Pam Muñoz Ryan, author Ashley Hope Pérez, committeewoman Laura Kleinmann and co-cordinator Lisa Finelli of Vanderbilt University.

Two children’s book authors have been awarded the 2016 Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature, coordinated by Vanderbilt University’s Center for Latin American Studies and Tulane University and administered by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP). The awards celebrate authors who “authentically and engagingly portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States.”

This year’s recipients, Pam Munoz Ryan, author of Echo, and Ashley Hope-Perez, author of Out of Darkness, were honored Sept. 22 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Books are judged by a review committee made up of five teachers and librarians from various institutions. This year’s committee included Denise Croker, a Peabody College alumna who currently teaches at the Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, as well as Laura Kleinmann, librarian for the Oyster Adams Bilingual School in Washington, D.C. Award decisions center on four main criteria: distinctive literary quality; how accurately it represents Latin culture; exceptional integration of text, illustration and design; and potential for classroom use.

Special emphasis is placed on this final component, classroom use. Vanderbilt’s Outreach Coordinator at CLAS, Lisa Finelli, helped organize a workshop coinciding with the award ceremony that allowed teachers to explore ways to use these books in their classrooms. Additional curricular resources have also been provided by CLASP to aid teachers with literary incorporation following the award events.

Finelli sees Vanderbilt’s involvement in this program as the fulfilment of CLAS Vanderbilt’s federal designation as a National Resource Center for Latin America.

“By coordinating the Américas Award, we are able to extend our reach beyond Nashville to impact teachers and bring Latin American content to classrooms across the United States,” she said.

by Erin Facer

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