In Conversation: The Promise of Young Adult Literature

The Summit's History

The Summit on the Research and Teaching of Young Adult Literature began just after NCTE in 2017 with our first Summit in 2018. Steve Bickmore, Michelle Falter, Gretchen Rumohr, and Sarah Donovan imagined a Summit welcoming authors, scholars, educators, and librarians into conversation about all that young adult literature does for our hearts and minds. We especially wanted to cultivate a space where authors could see how their books were living in classroom spaces and research studies and where educators could talk to the authors writing the books we were sharing in our classrooms. We hoped/hope that together we can shape the landscape of literature welcomed in schools and inform the trajectory of YA literature to be intersectional, inclusive, and responsive to the needs of readers.

As young adult literature scholars and educators, we wanted to have dedicated time to talk about what we were learning and noticing in the field, and we wanted authors, classroom teachers, and librarians to be part of that conversation.

Because there is an English Language Arts Teacher Educators conference every two years, we imagined the Summit would be during off years. Steve, an associate professor at UNLV at the time, had experience with organizing conferences, so he volunteered UNLV to be the home of the Summit, and once we began collaborating with Clark County School District, it became an annual Summit. 

As the pandemic began, we moved the event online and learned a lot about what virtual conferences can do and cannot do, but together we drew on the possibilities of an online conference, bringing authors, scholars, and teachers together from across the country at a fraction of the cost, which increased accessibility and brought more voices and perspectives to the virtual table.

As the pandemic continued, we tried a hybrid conference to attend to people's preferences for in-person engagement and accessibility. This proved to be a success but much more strenuous to plan given the volunteer Summit team's ongoing school and family commitments.  

And as the pandemic continued, members of the Commission on the Study and Teaching of Adolescent Literature joined in the planning to revision the Summit. Together, we decided to move the Summit back online, making an intentional choice to  remove financial and travel obstacles and create a space for everyone to join during the school year thus not competing with summer plans and respecting work contracts.  We also reorganized the call and funding to center all voices-- teacher, librarian, researcher, author-- with greater equity in offering panel conversations and discussants rather than keynotes and isolated presentations.