No Longer for Kids: Children’s Literature and Higher Education

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Noah Mullens / University of Florida
contact email: 

Call for Papers: MLA 2024

Co-sponsored by the Children’s Literature Association and MLA Libraries and Research Forum (non-guaranteed)

Deadline Extended: March 15th

In March 2022, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the “Parental Rights in Education” bill— dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. The policy bars teachers from discussing “sexual orientation or gender identity” with students between kindergarten through the third grade. While LGBTQ+ picture books are not necessarily banned, the implication of the law is that queer literature will no longer be easily accessible to children in elementary schools. The passage of the law is another instance of the trend of banning texts that deal with race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and sexuality. Conversely, other texts are taken out of circulation due to antiquated or harmful depictions of gender, race, and/or sexuality. This process of curation and restriction has happened throughout history. However, this panel addresses the pedagogical questions undergirding these processes.

What happens to these texts? Many are relegated to one specialized area: higher education. But what occurs when a piece of children’s literature can only be taught in a university setting, and how has it occurred in the past? How do curators shape children’s books when archiving them as research objects for scholars? Why are certain texts canonized or applauded in higher education but do not share a similar popularity with parents or elementary educators? What are possible interventions for dealing with book bans in children’s literature?

With the recent publication of the 50th edition of Children’s Literature, the annual journal of the Children’s Literature Association and The Modern Language Association Division on Children’s Literature, this roundtable asks to reflect not only of the study on children’s literature in academia, but to consider the texts that can only be studied in higher educational contexts.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Syllabi of children’s literature courses and the tastes, sensibilities, and aesthetics scholars have privileged

  • The various considerations and restrictions public librarians, school librarians, and archivists navigate when curating children’s books

  • Historical examples of literature that was removed from child educational settings but persisted in higher education

  • Policies that reframe particular children’s texts or crossover texts to a strictly adult audience

  • Differences in how scholars in higher education and readers outside of the university perceive the intended audience of children’s literature

  • Texts that make critical contributions to children’s literature scholarship and representation that do not gain traction outside of the academy

  • The multiple qualifiers for when to take a book out of circulation and the controversies surrounding how these texts should be approached, researched, and taught in a higher educational context

  • The differences or similarities between what Michelle Ann Abate calls a “children’s literature for adults” and children’s literature that becomes adult through political agendas

Please send a brief abstract (150-200 words) for short papers suitable for a roundtable discussion to Noah Mullens ( by March 15th, 2023.