I am absolutely thrilled to follow in the footsteps of Teri Lesesne, Gary Salvner, and Ted Hipple, and big footsteps they are. If I can serve even half as nobly as they did, I will be pleased. Due to their efforts and the efforts of all the members and leaders of ALAN, the field of young adult literature has come light years from where it was when I began teaching high school English in 1976 and Robert Cormier’s Chocolate War was a relatively new book. One thing has not changed, however, and that is the important role literature plays in the lives of young people, providing them with a means for making sense of their lives.
Our role as the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the National Council of Teachers of English is to facilitate young readers in finding and engaging with the very best books and authors, the ones that help them figure out who they are. We understand the power of literature to help young adults recognize their own priceless value in the world, make the most of their own lives, and value and serve those around them to make the world a better place.
The crux of the work that ALAN has been doing and needs to continue includes: (1) promoting and affirming equity among all the diverse ways of living the human experience, (2) promoting scholarship that highlights and defines the value of YAL in the lives of young readers, both in and out of school, and its benefit to the world (3) facilitating the growth of the genre through our advocacy, such that more authors, more presses, and more YAL of all formats are available to meet the needs of more young people. As always, we will continue to grow our membership and to reach out to the various networks of educators interested in what is best for young people, leaving no one out. As all ALAN executive directors, presidents and leaders have done, we will continue to get more people involved, discover more new authors and honor more established authors, promote diversity, give more awards, and have an enjoyable experience along the way.
James Blasingame is a professor of English Education at Arizona State University (ASU). He is a past president of the NCTE’s Assembly on Literature for Adolescents and a past co-editor of The ALAN Review. He is coauthor of the English Journal annual Honor List and editor of the Print Based Texts pages of the International Literacy Association’s Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. He is a winner of the International Reading Association’s Arbuthnot Award, the ASU Parents Association Professor of the Year Award, and the Arizona English Teachers’ Association Lifetime Contribution Award He is the author of eight books on teen literacy and has published over 200 author interviews and 500 book reviews. He is originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.