Dr. Violet Harris is a professor emerita at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she has been a professor since 1986. Her scholarship focuses on the areas of multicultural children's literature, children's book publishing, the historic development of African American literacy, and the creation of literacy materials created specifically for African Americans. More broadly, her interests lie in the sociocultural influences on literacy, schooling, and teacher education. Dr. Harris’s work has been widely published, including in Reading Research Quarterly, The New Advocate, Language Arts, Journal of Literacy Research, Journal of Children’s Literature, and Children’s Literature in Education.
Dr. Harris' keynote will be on “Ideological Construct and Current Fact: Multiculturalism and Multicultural Literature for Youth." The USA’s evolution towards multiculturalism began the moment that Indians, Europeans, and Africans, and later, Asians, encountered each other through exploration, war, conquest, voluntary and coerced liaisons, integration, segregation, and other iterations of the body politic. Literature, a cultural by-product of human desires for creative expression embodies, to varying degrees, each of the aforementioned ideologies and processes. With these ideas in mind, Dr. Harris will present her examination of the cultural processes that affect the creation, production, dissemination, and response to multicultural literature for youth. Rather than examine the literatures of individual groups on the sole basis of identity markers, the literature is examined in terms of its literary merit and the ideas embodied in the texts relative to the intersection of identities and political moments.