This morning I booktalked half a dozen new and upcoming books to my students, most of which don’t come out until next year. Next week I will bring in a huge box of books that UPS is slowly shipping my way over the holiday weekend. Most of these are books I received at ALAN, sponsored by the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents. I stuffed 46 lbs of books into my suitcase (thank you, Southwest!) and shipped home another 30 lbs. There are advance reader’s copies, signed books, and brand new hardcover books in those boxes. My classroom library shelves have been cleared for the day they arrive and my students are waiting with bated breath.
Walking into ALAN is like celebrating every gift-giving holiday at one time- the publishers have generously donated hundreds of books to the attendees and sponsored the attendance of many of their authors. Over the course of two days, immediately following the NCTE Annual Convention, ALAN allows teachers, librarians, and pre-service teachers to learn from some of the greatest artists of our time. While NCTE is huge, busy, and fast-paced, ALAN is focused solely on the relationship between books, their readers, and the authors. The pace is much slower, but it’s no less inspiring. Each day, dozens of authors sit in conversation with the attendees. They discuss topics ranging from race to research skills, sex in literature to the power of series books, history and current events to fan fiction and writing. Imagine spending an entire day learning from Laurie Halse Anderson, Julie Murphy, Chris Crutcher, Angie Thomas, Nic Stone, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely, Holly Black, Mitali Perkins, and so many more! Then imagine meeting and learning from new-to-you authors like Samira Ahmed and Nic Stone. And to top it all off, you have copies of their books to read! The authors also offer signing lines after their panels so you can get your books personalized.
ALAN is one of my favorite professional development experiences each year. The authors and attendees push me to think critically about the books I read and the books my students read. They challenge my assumptions and push me out of my comfort zone. This year, I left with some big ideas that I’ll be mulling over for months and conversations that will continue on Voxer and social media. If you’ve never been to ALAN, I highly recommend attending. You don’t need to attend NCTE in order to attend ALAN, so if you can’t get four days off from school, you can just register for ALAN. Plus, registration comes with an ALAN membership. You don’t need to wait for the conference to join; sign up now! Membership includes an amazing journal and the opportunity to serve on committees. I just started my tenure on the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award committee and I’m also a state rep for ALAN. Please reach out to me if you have any questions (or just want to talk about books!).
Written by Sarah Mulhern Gross, Vice-President and Board Member, NJCTE, NBCT and English Teacher, High Technology High School, Lincroft, NJ
Posted by Audrey Fisch, blog editor for NJCTE
New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English