Book Award Bring Stories of South Asia to Children Across Country

Author Rudine Sims Bishop argued that books can serve as windows to other worlds or mirrors that allow us to be seen in new ways. With this concept in mind, the South Asia Center, in collaboration with other Title VI National Resource Centers, decided to create a book award to recognize children’s books that forward a diverse array of stories about South Asia and people living in South Asia or in the diaspora. Founded in 2009,The South Asia Book Award was under the auspices of the South Asia National Outreach Consortium (SANOC), and the first awards were given in 2012. With this award, we hope to encourage teachers, librarians, and outreach professionals to use books to introduce children to the peoples, cultures, and histories of South Asia while providing ways for South Asian American children to see themselves positively represented.

The criteria for the book award focus on the extent to which submissions accurately and skillfully portray South Asia, the experience of individuals living in South Asia, or of South Asians living in other parts of the world. In selecting award books, the committee focuses on three primary criteria—the literary quality of the story, its cultural authenticity, and the potential to use the book in the classroom. Our driving principle is that these books should help to internationalize the K-12 curriculum and improve teaching about the region.

To that end, the members of SANOC and the SABA committee undertake a variety of outreach activities each year to promote the books and the lesson plans associated with them. Over the past six years, hundreds of students have participated in author visits with SABA-winning authors. Additionally, SABA has presented at national teacher conferences and regional librarian conferences to inform teachers and librarians about the Awards and to promote its curricular resources. In fall 2018, we recognized authors and illustrators Nancy Churning and Danny Popovici (Manjhi Moves a Mountain), Jennifer Bradbury (Outside In), Mitali Perkins (You Bring the Distant Near), and Nidhi Chandani (Pashmina) at the National Council for the Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Conference in Houston, Texas. In May 2019, we participated in the Global Reads Webinar, for which we spoke with Mitali Perkins. (https://internationalizingsocialstudies.blog/world-area-book-awards/2019webinarseries/)

The 2020 Committee, which includes Maxwell alumna Nidhi Vij (G’16), and two local librarians—Jennifer Burke, Children’s Librarian at the Community Library of DeWitt and Jamesville and Karen Fenner, school librarian at Westhill High School—will soon begin reading and evaluating books for this year’s awards. Winners will be announced in May 2020. To find out more about previous awards, to review submission guidelines, or to stay abreast of upcoming SABA related events, check out the SABA website: https://southasiabookaward.wisc.edu/.

Jennifer Bradbury, Mitali Perkins, Nidhi Chanani, Nancy Churin, and Danny Popovici pose with each other's books and their awards at the SABA Award Ceremony in Houston, TX.