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Literature by the Map

MinnesotaLiteraryMap“If your kids are like mine, they know the geography of finding their favorite authors in the library, but not much about the authors’ locations in the world or details about their lives. When they start researching authors, though, they find events, trivia, life stories that surprise them or that connect to places and events in their own lives. The authors become real. Aren’t these connections what we, as passionate readers, also enjoy?” writes Sandy Hayes.

 In 1957 NCTE encouraged its affiliates to produce literary maps and at that time 20 states did. By 1970 half the states had maps.

Since then affiliates have continued to create literary maps, alone and with partners such as tourism boards, humanities councils, and library associations. Often affiliates created supplemental materials to accompany the maps, materials ranging from postcards to booklists to anthologies.

Map creation was a different process for each group, but one major decision each affiliate needed to make was, Who goes on the map? Was it an authors who lived all their lives in the state? Those who just passed through and stopped for a while? Those who wrote about the state? In this English Journal article, Joyce Kinkead explains the process the Utah Council of Teachers of English used to develop their map and explains the benefit it brought to students:

UtahLiteraryMap“Many students already know David Lee [the Utah pig poet] before he visits their schools for poetry readings because his picture is one of twelve important writers on a poster in their classroom”