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Children’s literature has worldwide advocate in OU professor

Monday, November 22, 2010
Children’s literature has worldwide advocate in OU professor
By Dan Bodene, contributing writer

Anonymous, the world-famous philosopher, once said, “Good children's literature appeals not only to the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.”

That’s why Linda Pavonetti, Ed.D., an associate professor in Oakland University’s Reading and Language Arts department, is on a mission to make more children’s literature available around the world.

Dr. Pavonetti recently was elected to the 10-member executive committee of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), serving as a vice president from 2010-2012. She is the lone elected American on the committee, which also includes representatives from Belgium, Spain, France, Turkey, Palestine, Egypt, Uganda, China and Japan.

IBBY is a non-profit organization with headquarters in Basel, Switzerland, and is comprised of an international network of people committed to bringing books to children all over the world. There are many challenges to the work.

“Children in Detroit need books, but there are ways of getting books to them,” Dr. Pavonetti said. “But children in Haiti, for example, need books in their Creole language, and publishers just don’t print in that language. Our focus is on getting books to children in their own language – and we’re seeing good progress in several African nations.”

Dr. Pavonetti helps oversee IBBY’s efforts to get books translated and printed in different languages. IBBY also coordinates various grass-roots efforts to the same end.

“IBBY gets youngsters, parents and volunteers together to create books,” she said. “We put together workshops to teach them how to literally make books. We try to give assistance to projects that are sustainable, so they can continue to help families and children.”

IBBY encourages the publication and distribution of quality children's books, especially in developing countries; provides support and training for those involved with children and children's literature; and stimulates research and scholarly works in the field of children's literature.

Dr. Pavonetti says the executive committee also works on duties such as determining policies and programs, fund-raising, reviewing nominees for recognition programs such as the IBBY Honour List and the Hans Christian Andersen Awards for authors and illustrators, and planning traveling exhibitions and events such as International Children’s Book Day.

The EC members are also involved in preparations for IBBY World Congresses, held every two years and hosted by a different National Section. The next congress will be held in London in 2012.

Dr. Pavonetti also has served as a board member and president of the United States National Section of IBBY (USBBY). Now a past president, she monitors the group’s website, whose webmaster is Michael Latcha, an associate professor of Engineering at OU. For more on USBBY, visit the website.

For the past six years, Dr. Pavonetti has been reading, annotating and editing the fourth volume in the USBBY book series, "Bridges to Understanding. Envisioning the World Through Children’s Books," which will be available in 2011, provides annotations for close to 700 children’s books originally published in another nation or translated into English.

And, she has made her collection of international children’s and young adult books available to the OU community in the Educational Resources Laboratory.

At Oakland, besides teaching courses on children’s and young adult literature, Dr. Pavonetti also helps coordinate the Authors and Illustrators Arts and Crafts class each summer. “I’ve met some internationally respected authors and illustrators, and they’re incredibly kind, generous people,” she said.

It’s all a labor of love for Dr. Pavonetti, who has been teaching, from first grade to university level, for more than 25 years.

“Literacy is something I feel very strongly about, but it’s also a lot of fun,” she said. “And to paraphase Judith Viorst, one of my favorite authors, ‘that’s a pretty nice job for a bibliophile.’”

For more information on IBBY, visit the website.