49 Writers Interview: Judy Ferri, Alaska State Literacy Association

As part of our ongoing series of interviews featuring organizations that support and promote Alaska writers and writing, we bring you this interview with Judy Ferri of the Alaska State Literacy Association.

Tell us about your membership – who, how many, and what benefits they discover in joining ASLA.

The Alaska State Literacy Association (ASLA) is a professional education association in Alaska, affiliated with the International Reading Association. We provide professional education, leadership training, grants and awards and offer a network of support to our approximately 500 members. We advocate for public policy to enhance and support the quality of reading education in our state and nation.

One concern we hear among Alaskan authors is that there aren’t enough books by and about Alaskans used in classrooms across the state. Do you feel students would benefit from an effort to change that? Given the adoption of packaged reading curricula, how could we get teachers to use more Alaskan books?

Well written books will be read and used by Alaskan teachers and students. School districts have always adopted core reading/literacy programs with “packaged curricula” and teachers and librarians have always found ways to read and share good quality books about Alaska and by Alaskan authors.

In your view, what are some of the best ways Alaska’s authors could partner with teachers and schools to advance literacy and promote Alaskan books?

It’s not a new idea, but I think author visits to schools and libraries where authors read their books, share their writing ideas and how their books are designed and illustrated, and interact with children about writing is the best way to engage children to read books. In addition, when an author has their books available for purchase where they are speaking it is a plus for getting their books in the hands of children.

To what extent do Alaskan organizations work together, and to what extent does each have its own niche? What is ASLA’s niche?

The Alaska State Literacy Association sponsors the Alaska State Literacy Conference each year in different locations around the state. At the conference, an author event is always a popular feature. Authors from around the state are invited to either a brunch, luncheon, or evening with authors where conference attendees get to meet authors whose books are available for sale during the event. In addition, at every other year, ASLA sponsors a literacy conference which includes call for proposals for sectional presentations. Authors often submit proposals for presentations on their books with ideas for classroom use.

What else would you like our readers to know about ASLA?

Each year the Alaska State Literacy Association sponsors the Forget-Me-Not Book Award which honors an Alaskan author whose published work about Alaska, either fiction or nonfiction, makes an outstanding contribution to children’s literature. The award provides travel expenses to the ASLA Conference and conference fees to the author for the event where the Forget-Me-Not Award is awarded.

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