This edition of Who Makes Millersville Special features Dr. Lesley Colabucci, associate professor of Early, Middle and Exceptional Education.
Q: Where are you originally from?
I was born in Washington D.C., and raised just southeast of there in Maryland.
Q: How did you become interested in studying education and children’s literature?
My dad was a principal. He was a big influence along with many of the teachers who worked for him. There’s a clear connection between my undergraduate children’s literature professor and my career path. I wanted to be her when I grew up.
Q: From what school(s) have you earned your degree(s)?
I attended University of Maryland for my undergrad and initial teacher certification program. I then earned my master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and my Ph.D. from Ohio State.
Q: How many years have you been at Millersville?
This fall will be my 11th year!
Q: What area(s) of education interest you the most?
Literacy and diversity are my main areas of expertise. I have always had a strong commitment to urban education and issues of social justice. My son attends the School District of Lancaster and my spouse teaches at J.P. McCaskey High School
Q: Do you have a favorite class to teach at Millersville? Why?
I’m lucky enough to get to teach what I love. Children’s literature is my passion and that’s what fills my schedule. As long as it’s a children’s literature class, I’m happy.
Q: Do you have a favorite title in children’s literature? A favorite author?
That’s really hard. I’d have to say my favorite author is Jacqueline Woodson. If I had to narrow down an artist for picture books, I’d say Chris Raschka. A favorite book is way too hard, but recently I loved The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold and illustrated by Emily Gravett. It’s illustrated but not a picture book. It’s the best kind of fantasy that a reader of just about any age would enjoy it.
Q: What are some trends or issues in children’s literature that may surprise people?
Many of us continue to be surprised by the dismal amount of multicultural or diverse books for children. My students are also usually surprised (and saddened) by the kinds of attempts at censorship that have arisen lately. I continue to be surprised that some adults have not embraced graphic novels (yes, comic books) or do not see their amazing potential in the classroom.
Q: Have you met any well-known authors or illustrators?
Lots. This is one of the best parts of my job. When I go to conferences, I often get to hear authors and illustrators speak. A few that people might have heard of are Tomie DePaola, Patricia Polacco and Mem Fox.
Q: Have you ever been selected to sit on a panel to choose an award in children’s literature? How was that?
Yes, and it was amazing. The American Library Association has very prestigious awards for children’s books, and it was a privilege to serve on two of their award committees: the Geisel award for beginner books and the Coretta Scott King award for African-American children’s literature. The jury process is very intense. You have to know your stuff and be able to hold your own in a debate, especially after hours of discussion while sequestered in a hotel conference room.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Sharing new books with my students. I work hard to help my Early, Middle and Exceptional Education majors discover new titles during the time they are in my class. It’s easy to get stuck on “old favorites,” and I love when I’m successful in moving students beyond that.
Q: What is your greatest accomplishment?
Surviving the adoption process. The satisfaction of the Ph.D., the excitement of relocating several times, and even the daily challenge of being a parent all pale in comparison to the accomplishment of adopting a child, especially as a same-sex couple.
Q: If you could do any job in the world, what would it be?
That’s a no-brainer. I’d be a librarian. I still hold out hopes of getting a Master of Library Science degree one day.