June 9, 2022 Virtual and June 10-11, 2022 In Person

The Summit on the Research & Teaching of Young Adult Literature

at Lied Library, UNLV, Las Vegas

Join young adult literature authors, scholars, educators, and librarians to explore the latest in children's and YA lit, learn research-informed classroom activities, engage in critical conversation reading practices, and nurture your reading life.

2022 Summit Overview

Our Theme: Books, Classrooms, Communities: Young Adult Literature as a Lifeline

Hosted​ ​by​ ​The​ ​College​ ​of​ ​Education​ ​at​ ​University​ ​of​ ​Nevada​ ​Las​ ​Vegas​ ​(UNLV), the​ 5th Summit​ ​on​ ​the​ ​Research​ ​and​ ​Teaching​ ​of​ ​Young​ ​Adult​ ​Literature​ is sponsored by​ ​The​ ​College​ ​of​ ​Education​ ​at​ ​UNLV,​ ​The​ ​Gayle​ ​A.​ ​Zeiter​ ​Literacy​ ​Center,​ ​The Clark County School District, and the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District. Featured speakers, Brandy Colbert, Varian Johnson, and Malinda Lo along with Gae Polisner, Brendan Kiely, and Sonia Patel, are sponsored by UNLV, the Southern Nevada Writing Project, and Oklahoma State University's Language, Literacy, and Cultural doctoral program.

Teachers, librarians, English educators, and their students--and practically anyone in the education community--continue to contend with the social, emotional, economic, and political aftermaths of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lives, jobs, and relationships have been lost. The places we frequented--coffee shops, gyms, places of worship, schools, libraries--don’t look the same. Chairs are pushed apart, faces unfamiliar, comforts missing. We wish to return to what was, but there is no going back.

As we navigate challenges, we turn to books. Pam Allyn (2020) acknowledges our students’ “significant challenges and traumas,” stating that reading is a “lifeline,” “help[ing] all students feel a sense of belonging, to feel less alone, and to work on their journeys of becoming passionate, thoughtful, curious people in the world in spite of the challenges these days have brought to them.” Allyn also affirms that reading can bring that sense of community to “all of us...who care for and love the children we serve. Reading, and stories themselves, are a lifeline for all of us.”

In many ways, then, we can see YA books as a way to bring ourselves, our students, our colleagues, our communities, to a healthier place. After all, YA books help our marginalized students find safety, purpose, and agency. However, there are ways that books as lifelines are being questioned. Our newsfeeds are barbed wires instead of lifelines, populated with angry parents challenging books that each of us have come to value and love--books that have saved our students’ lives. However, Meg Medina, the 2019 Summit’s keynote, wrote, “Stop the Madness: Banning Books is Not the Answer'' on censorship:

To pull books from a school library because of the discomfort they create in adults is a recipe for disaster. It erodes the trust young people have in the adults in their lives and pushes them to secrecy. It undermines the studied opinion of professional librarians and educators. It supports a false idea that there is one version of life that is acceptable. And, it denigrates the work of authors who are brave enough to name experiences that are difficult and real.

Ashley Hope Perez, a keynote speaker at the 2020 UNLV Summit has aptly warned us that “attacks on books are proxy wars against people that some wish didn’t exist.” Laurie Halse Anderson, a keynote speaker at the 2018 UNLV Summit, has stated,“Censorship is the child of fear, and the father of ignorance. Our children cannot afford to have the truth of the world withheld from them. They need us to be brave enough to give them great books so that they can grow into the strong women and men that we need them to be.”

With that hope, let’s consider: ​

  • In what ways are books lifelines, and how can teachers help students see books in this way? Similarly, how can authors,​ ​​scholars,​ ​teachers,​ ​librarians,​ and ​human rights/literacy​ ​organizations​ nurture and sustain Young Adult Literature (YAL) as lifelines?

  • How can classroom libraries be seen and labeled as rows of lifelines?

  • In what ways can teachers encourage administrators to be allies in viewing books as lifelines?

  • What does it mean to provide lifelines in our classrooms---when books are being challenged? In the midst of censorship, how do we provide “alternative lifelines” to students when other books are challenged?

  • How can teachers stay up-to-date on policy decisions regarding challenged books? How can librarians advocate against censorship and connect students with “lifeline” books?

  • What organizations should teachers utilize in order to make books “lifelines”?

  • How does our desire for equity, diversity, equality align with books as lifelines?

  • How do educators form partnerships with community organizations to provide these lifelines?

This year the conference will be online one day and in person two days. Day one (virtual) will focus on empirical or conceptual research in the field; Days two and three (in person) will employ a practitioner focus. Those participating in all three days are welcome to attend with us in Las Vegas in person on the first day.​ Organizers are working on a schedule to establish a lively space of collaboration and​ ​dialogue on​ ​the​ ​state and value​ ​of​ ​YA​ ​literature.​ ​

Day 1


10AM-7PM (PST)

Authors Brendan Kiely, Gae Polisner, and Sonia Patel will begin the day with a panel discussion of their latest work and the state of YA lit in publishing and media. Authors, scholars, and classroom teachers will lead over 15 sessions that share research and pedagogy with YA lit. Mid-day, authors will debrief the sessions with attendees and presenters to synthesize what are hearing and discuss the implications of the sessions for our ongoing advocacy of reading. Las Vegas educators will join us in the afternoon, and Clark County School District administrators will offer insights on the impact of new reading and book policies to dispel myths and engage in critical conversations about how we can nurture inclusive classroom reading practices across all grade levels. If you are in town for the 3-day conference, you can join the organizers at UNLV to engage in the online sessions with strong wi-fi.

Day 2


11:30 coffee & tea, 12PM-3PM (PST) sessions at Lied Library

3PM-7:30PM Hendrix Auditorium

The focus of this day is teaching with children's and YA Lit, so there will be many practical, hands-on sessions that support teachers in using YA lit across grade levels. Authors Brandy Colbert, Malinda Lo, and Gae Polisner will begin the day with a panel discussion about their work and offer their perspectives on YA literature in media and classrooms. CCSD educators will join around 3PM with time to socialize. At 3:30 PM, Brandy will offer her keynote. There will be afternoon workshops for teachers, a debut author panel, a writing workshop with author Gae Polisner, and a closing keynote from Malinda Lo.

Day 3


9AM-4:30PM (PST) Lied Library

All sessions will be teaching-focused and standards-informed. Classroom teachers, children's' literature experts, YA authors, and teacher educators will lead amazing sessions with activities teachers can apply in classrooms. Author Varian Johnson will give the morning keynote and debut authors will lead a panel on classics retellings. As a follow-up to her writing workshop on Friday, author Gae Polisner will offer a collaborative writing workshop at two different times. The final session of the day will offer time to synthesize the entire Summit with the organizers, educators, and authors in small groups. There is always so much to process, so this last part of the day will be time to gather, share insights, and discuss next steps.

Featured Author-Speakers

Malinda Lo

Brandy Colbert

Varian Johnson

Brendan Kiely

Gae Polisner

Sonia Patel

The Summit Directors

Sarah J. Donovan

Dr. Sarah J. Donovan is a former junior high ELA teacher of 15 years and teacher educator at Oklahoma State University. She is the author of the YA novel Alone Together, editor of Rhyme and Rhythm: Poems for Student Athletes, and facilitator of teacher-writers through Writers Who Care and Ethical ELA.

Gretchen Rumohr

Dr. Gretchen Rumohr is a professor of English, department chair, and writing program administrator at Aquinas College, MI. She is the chief curator for YA Wednesday and editor of Contending with Gun Violence in the English Language Classroom. Dr. Rumohr lives in Zeeland, MI with her four daughters and a tiny baby Yorkshire Terrier.



Sophie M. Ladd is an Associate Professor in Residence at UNLV specializing in pedagogy and school library administration. Dr. Ladd's research interests include teacher negotiation of literature discussion, early literacy education for at risk populations, multi-literacies, and classroom pedagogy. She is the site director for the Southern Nevada Writing Project.

The Venue

Thursday will be online.

Saturday will be in person at the Lied Library.

Hotels nearby include the Hyatt Place and Virgin Hotel. See Venue for more information.

Let us know if you'll be attending!