The story of Reading the World begins with the late Dr. Marilyn Nye, head of the Teacher Education Department at California State University, Hayward.
She developed a Certificate in Children’s Literature and originated a “Celebrating Children’s Literature Conference.” It was a unique, one-day event. It ran for nine years, featuring one author, one illustrator, a storyteller, and 25 workshops. Beverly Hock, then a graduate student at the University of San Francisco was a presenter at that conference and a former student of Dr. Nye.
After the last CSUH conference, a group of students at the University of San Francisco were disappointed that such a worthwhile event was ending. Agreeing it was a loss to see the cancellation of such an enriching experience, six graduate students, in a class taught by Dr. Alma Flor Ada, determined to work together to create a similar conference. They decided to build on the CSUH tradition and make it grow. Dr. Nye agreed to help them get started on the planning. This new conference would be entirely organized by students under the guidance of Dr. Ada.
The conference name comes from the writings of Paolo Freire, the great Brazilian educator and philosopher, who encouraged learners to challenge and change the world.
Reading the World I took place in 1998. It ran for two days, featured seven keynote speakers and 40 workshops. In subsequent years, a celebration dinner was added, workshops have varied, and special events at the conference have included an art show of children’s book illustration, a joint venture between USF and the International Board on Books for Young People, an art auction, book signings and special guest readings.
This conference is a significant contribution to the Bay Area, as there are currently only one or two children’s literature conferences west of the Mississippi and none focus on the multicultural aspects of the field. The goal is to invite speakers of all ethnicities and nationalities and to acquaint our audience with the rich materials available.
Reading the World is a creative and imaginative addition to the goal of seeking to develop critical literacy geared to promote social justice, equality, inclusion and peace; objectives in line with the mission statement of the University. We strive to enhance the “magical encounter” between children and books — our hope for all children.