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SWON Children's Literature Conference

Keynote 1

Mariama J. Lockington is an adoptee, author, and educator. She has been telling stories and making her own books since the second grade, when she wore shortalls and flower leggings every day to school. Mariama’s middle-grade debut, For Black Girls Like Me, earned five starred reviews and was a Today Show Best Kids’ Book of 2019. Her sophomore middle-grade book, In The Key of Us, earned a Stonewall Honor award and was featured in the New York Times. Her debut Young Adult novel, Forever is Now will be out May 23, 2023. Mariama’s poetry has appeared in a number of magazines and journals, including Buzzfeed News Reader, Bodega Magazine, and Prelude Magazine, and she is the author of the poetry chapbook The Lucky Daughter (2016). She is a Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Alum, a Voices of Our Nation Arts Alum, a Literary Death Match Champion and she holds a Masters in Education from Lesley University and a Masters in Fine Arts in Poetry from San Francisco State University. Mariama calls many places home, but currently lives in Kentucky with her wife, her little sausage dog, Henry, and an abundance of plants. When Mariama is not writing, she works as the Director of the Professional Learning Series at University of Kentucky’s College of Education. You can find her on Twitter @marilock and on Instagram/TikTok @forblackgirlslikeme.


Session 1

REDEFINING 'NORMAL': The Importance of Disability Representation in KidLit

What is ‘normal’? Is it the way someone looks? The way they feel? Or something else entirely? Join Schneider Family Award-winning author Shannon Stocker for a frank discussion on the importance of normalizing disability in children’s literature, and why this topic is so personal for her.


Author Shannon Stocker is a fierce advocate for those with disabilities. She’s written picture books such as the 2023 ALA Schneider Family Book Award winner, Cybils Award finalist, Anna Dewdney Read Aloud Honor book, Comstock Read Aloud Award winner, and contender for the Maryland Black Eyed Susan Award and the Vermont Red Clover Book Award, LISTEN: HOW EVELYN GLENNIE, A DEAF GIRL, CHANGED PERCUSSION (Dial/Random House and Penguin UK), CAN U SAVE THE DAY (Sleeping Bear Press, 2019), and WARRIOR: A PATIENT’S COURAGEOUS QUEST (Sleeping Bear Press, 2023). She’s also a frequent contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and she has several unannounced projects in the queue, including her debut YA novel! Shannon currently serves as SCBWI social co-director for Louisville and is a 12x12 ninja. In her spare time, she advocates for children with cancer (her daughter is a warrior) and, as a Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy patient and medical school graduate herself, she sits on the board for the RSD Foundation. Cool facts: Shannon survived a coma, and once performed two songs, including one original, as part of an opening act for Blake Shelton. The proud word nerd lives in Louisville KY with her husband, two children, too many critters, and a hidden stash of dark chocolate. Shannon is rep’d by Allison Remcheck of Stimola Literary Studio.



Curating Delight in Your Community: books that excite, books that challenge, and books that incite curiosity


As we navigate bookselling and booklending as librarians, teachers, and indie bookstores, it's important that we understand that ways in which we can reach out to our communities/students in ways that excite them, challenge them, and push them to look further than their own backyards to discover just who they can be as both learners and citizens of the globe. Here we will discuss not only HOW to do that, but what kinds of books can assist in doing this.


Caroline Stine, general manager of Blue Marble Books, who is originally from Ft. Thomas, Kentucky and ‘02 graduate of Highlands High School, has spent her artistic career as an actor, director, and costume designer. She has worked in Indianapolis, Indiana; Arezzo, Italy; and Boulder, Colorado, before circling back and returning to Cincinnati to produce and direct devised physical theatre. She obtained her BA in Theatre and English at Butler University and her MFA in Contemporary Performance from Naropa University. She is the artistic director and creator of InBocca Performance, a company that specializes in bleeding edge devised theatre in the heart of Cincinnati. Her work has been performed in all sorts of bizarre places from old tunnels, the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, Boulder Fringe, and the museums of Russia.

Building Vocabulary in Storytime

Storytime is fun and participatory, and it nurtures family and community engagement; but storytime also helps young children build essential language skills. Researchers from the University of Kentucky School of Information Science, in collaboration with the State Library of Ohio, the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives, and the Indiana State Library, recently conducted a research project studying the value of public library storytimes for school readiness and community-building. Through this multi-state research project, we identified how storytime supports language development and how to maximize vocabulary learning in storytime. Join us as we share findings about the role of book choice, questioning strategies, music, and play in learning new words. Practice research-based techniques to increase vocabulary, and discuss how to share strategies with caregivers. You’ll walk away from this hands-on, minds-on session with evidence about the benefits of storytime and new strategies to enhance outcomes for children, caregivers, and communities!


Maria Cahill is a professor in the School of Information Science at the University of Kentucky. Cahill’s research is centered on improving literacy, learning, and well-being outcomes for children and adolescents by attending to resources, services, and programs available through libraries. Cahill is currently serving as the Primary Investigator (PI) on two large scale studies of public library services and programs for young children: one project explores the value of storytime programs; and the second project investigates how libraries are serving young children with disabilities and developmental delays. Additionally, Cahill is co-PI of a project aimed at supporting school librarians’ evidence-based practices.


Programming for Young Children 0-3

Join Amber Cristofaro, Early Literacy Coordinator for Dayton Metro Library to discuss library programming for babies and toddlers. We will look at a brief overview of development for children 0 - 3, talk about why programming for young children is important and what types of programs are most popular. The presentation will address play schemas, tools you can use, and give you tips on best practices for working with children 0-3 and their caregivers.


Amber Cristofaro is the Early Literacy Coordinator for Dayton Metro Library. She has worked for Dayton Metro Library for 25+ years at a variety of locations. Amber earned her Bachelor of Science in Education, Early Childhood Education and Teaching, from the University of Cincinnati and her Master of Library and Information Science from Kent State University. As the Early Literacy Coordinator, Amber: *supports library staff systemwide in working with young children, *coordinates the development of systemwide of early literacy programming and services for young children, their caregivers, and the educators who work with them, *maintains relationships with schools, child care centers, educators, and families to provide services and resources that support their role as early literacy educators to young children, *and participates in collaborative community initiatives that address improving school readiness, reading proficiency, and parent education Some of her favorite projects from this past year include: Love Them Out Loud which distributed nearly 6,000 early literacy kits to families with infants, toddlers, & preschoolers via community partners and Kindergarten Club which brought over 500 rising kindergarteners and caregivers into the library for a series of school readiness programs.

Session 2


The Power of Jewish Stories in Your Library


“Why,” a librarian may ask, “should I add Jewish children’s books to my collection if there

aren’t Jewish people in the community I serve?” The answer to this question is fundamental to

understanding a library’s purpose: to offer patrons a window into the lives and experiences of

those different from themselves. But the answer goes beyond “windows and mirrors.” Jewish

books, when they reflect authentic Jewish representation and values, are universal stories. Jewish

stories spark imagination; speak to common themes of family, love, justice, and repairing the

world; and encourage children to think about profound questions of humanity. Led by award-winning children’s author and school librarian Stacy Nockowitz, this session will involve an active discussion about what authentic Jewish representation looks like and why it’s necessary to look beyond Holocaust stories to other aspects of the Jewish experience in order to create a complete library collection. Finally, the session will discuss how Jewish books can be combined with books of other marginalized groups for community building library activities and programs.


Author Stacy Nockowitz is a retired middle school librarian and former language arts teacher with 30+ years of experience in middle grade education. She holds Master’s Degrees from Columbia University and Kent State University, and is an MFA candidate in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her debut middle grade novel, The Prince of Steel Pier (Kar-Ben), won the 2022 National Jewish Book Award for Middle Grade Literature and was named a Sydney Taylor Book Award Notable Book for 2023. The Prince of Steel Pier was a PJ Our Way selection for October 2022, and Stacy received a PJ Library Author Incentive Award in 2020. Find her on Twitter @snockowitz or visit



Diversity in Pictures Books 2022-23

Overview of the best diverse picture books published in 2022-2023 to use in storytimes, programs, and more!


Dagmar Morales has been a programmer at Kenton County Public Library for the last 4 years. She moved to Kentucky from Puerto Rico 6 years ago and works with different organizations whose main goal is to serve the Hispanic / Latino community of Northern Kentucky. At the moment she hosts the only Spanish Storytime in NKY.


School Readiness in the Library: exploring picture books and activities that support early science and math learning

In this session, participants will learn what the research says about early science and math and explore ways to pair fiction and nonfiction picture books with library activities that support school readiness.


Celeste Swanson is the Youth Services Coordinator for the Lane Libraries (OH). Before taking on the coordinator position, she worked as a children's librarian for several years. Celeste enjoys building community partnerships and mentoring youth librarians and is one of the Ohio trainers for Early Literacy 101 and Reimagining School Readiness.

Be Prepared! Navigating Materials Challenges

School and public libraries have experienced unprecedented numbers of book challenges over the last two years. Make sure your organization is prepared! This presentation will provide tips for developing sound reconsideration policies; educating administration, board members, and the public; and proactively responding to materials challenges.

Dr. Belinda Boon is a Professor at Kent State University’s School of Information where she has taught since 2006. Her graduate and undergraduate courses include Collection Management, Information Services for Diverse Populations, Information Sources & Reference Services, and Information Fluency in the Workplace and Beyond. Prior to coming to Kent State she was an adjunct faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin. She also served as the Manager of Continuing Education & Consulting at the Texas State Library & Archives Commission. In the early 1990s she was the director of a small public library in Texas, and began her professional library career as a Children's Librarian in 1988.


Unusual Picture Books: A Journey of Discovery

We all love a good picture book, but do some of them end up hidden in the stacks because you have no idea how to present them? Bring them out of hiding because this interactive presentation is for you! Picture books with no words, interactive books, tongue twisters, oh my! Do not fear, we will conquer these and so much more!


Whitney Harper is an Outreach Librarian for MidPointe Library System. She has been with the system for 4 years and works with kids from 0-18 and with seniors 55+. Prior to becoming a librarian, she was a teacher for 7 years. Her passion is working with children who learn differently, that some might find difficult to work with,  and working with them to find what works best for them. She enjoys being creative and bubbly and is not your typical quiet librarian! When not up to library shenanigans, you’ll find her curled up with a good book, being a huge nerd with over-the-top board games, and playing with her four-legged fur and shelled babies.


Keynote 2


Jacob Grant is an author, illustrator, and dad who makes picture books. Originally from Cincinnati, Jacob now lives with his wife and two little ones in Chicago. Here he can be found in his home studio, drawing and writing until something feels story-ish. Some of his book include: No Fair!, No Pants!, Bear's Scare, and Cat Knit, among other stories inspired by parenting and animals with problems. Learn more about Jacob at

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