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Last modified: Thursday, December 16, 2010

School of Education faculty member selected for prestigious children's literature fellowship

Dec. 16, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The International Youth Library in Munich has selected Donna Adomat, assistant professor in the department of Literacy, Culture, and Language Education in the Indiana University School of Education, for one of its dozen fellowship awards presented annually. Adomat will visit Munich for three months to work on a research project using the resources of the library.

Donna Adomat

Donna Adomat

The International Youth Library has the world's largest collection of children's and youth literature from around the world. It has 580,000 books in more than 130 languages, published during the past 400 years, and nearly 30,000 international reference titles and almost 130 current periodicals.

Housed in a 15th century castle in Munich, the center started in 1949 as a way to promote new hope and values among youth in the immediate aftermath of the reign of Nazi Germany. The organization states that the fellowships have two purposes: to support research in the field of international children's and youth literature and illustration, and to promote academic exchange and international cooperation.

"It's an incredible opportunity," Adomat said. The honor is particularly rare because only 12 people are selected from across the globe, and only one person can come from any particular country.

In addition to the vast collection, the library is staffed to help scholars conduct their work. "They have a whole army of librarians and research librarians," Adomat said. "It's also a collection that's open to the public and also to children. It's not that you're just a bunch of researchers in a castle. It's a whole public institution, and scholars come and use the library from around the world."

Adomat has published research on how children with disabilities are portrayed in children's literature and plans to expand on that study in Munich. "I'm going to look at representations in text and in pictures across cultures and also across time," she said.

Adomat's recent work includes a study examining the responses of elementary school children to books that focus on disabilities. In Munich, she hopes to gain cross-cultural perspectives on how disabilities are represented using the vast international scope of the library's collection.

"It's been shown that children's literature is helpful in promoting positive attitudes towards people with disabilities, and the literature has improved greatly within the last 10 years," Adomat said. While a lot of progress has come over the last decade, Adomat said there is still more work to be done. "I think what's missing in the literature is more of a critical perspective where you examine these texts for stereotypes," she said.

Adomat will leave in mid-May and remain in Germany until mid-August. She also plans to visit a center in Oslo that holds an international collection of literature for youth dealing with disabilities before returning to Indiana. The International Youth Library honor adds to her experience that includes 20 years as a classroom teacher, special education teacher, reading specialist, literacy coach and language arts supervisor.

Adomat spent 10 years in Germany teaching English as a foreign sanguage. Her dissertation earned the American Education Research Association's Outstanding Dissertation of the Year award in 2007, and she was a finalist for the same award that year from the International Reading Association.