I write in celebration of the completion of a final draft of the WILLA GUIDELINES FOR A GENDER-BALANCED CURRICULUM: PRE-K TO GRADE 6. We sent it off in May to the NCTE publications department in its entirety. We hope that we will have a printed brochure ready for the San Diego conference in November.
Our aim was to find books of quality which would touch hearts and stretch minds. As Driek Zirinsky noted in last year's column, few students (in her case, high school students) were selecting books of note because "these young readers didn't know about . . . authors they might select, and often their teachers didn't know which books to recommend to them." We hope that some of our booklist recommendations will fill a void for elementary school teachers and children. The members of the committee, Nancy Prosenjak, Linda Amspauch and I, compiled a beginning list, and then went far afield to seek reactions, and suggestions for additions and deletions.
It was difficult for us to draw the line and send the list to NCTE since there always seemed to be one more book just coming out which was a potentially valuable addition. For example, in April we heard about Jane Yolen's newly published The Ballad of the Pirate Queens, a riveting tale of two swashbuckling female pirates of the early 1700's. Another late entry was Karen Cushman's Catherine, Called Birdy set in the Middle Ages, which tells of one young woman's spirited efforts to resist her nobleman father's plans to marry her to the highest bidder. And as the list was due to be sent, we learned that one of the Canadian Children's Literature Roundtable Information Book Award finalists was On the Shuttle: Eight Days in Space, written about Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar. Having brought one draft to completion, we look to the booklist stories, poems, and informational books to delight readers and give them a sense of their own strength and resourcefulness.