Children's Literature Dual Degree Experience: Grace Howard

December 16, 2014

Grace Howard

"I did not want to pigeonhole myself into one career. The dual degree opens up several avenues for exploration. Plus, there are so many networking opportunities at a school of library and information science."

For Grace Howard (MA '16/MA '16), who is combining the MA in Children's Literature with an MA in English, the program has also introduced her to new genres and ideas--in spite of a love of children's literature being instilled in her from a young age, with a mother who read to her constantly and even was as a librarian for a while. "I read a lot more YA now," Howard said, describing how this sub-set of the market has exploded in recent years. "When you go into Target or Barnes & Noble there are huge displays for young adult writing, with lots of dystopian fiction, but I see the pendulum swinging. We are starting to see more realism in YA lit, dealing with death, sexuality, with real issues that teenagers and young adults deal with, and I think that is very cool."

Coming from an undergraduate program in English at Boston College, Howard has doctoral studies on her radar, with hopes of a professorship; but rather than pursue solely a Masters of Arts in English, she opted for the dual-degree program at Simmons. "I did not want to pigeonhole myself into one career," Howard explained. "The dual degree opens up several avenues for exploration. Plus, there are so many networking opportunities at a school of library and information science." 

Encountering different perspectives was central to Howard's decision to attend Simmons; she explained how taking classes with those interested in publishing, teaching, and library science meant exposure to a wide range of research areas, and that much of "the beauty of this program" was its "diverse body of students." In addition, Howard credited the rich course offerings with presenting new ideas that have changed her approach to all literature, not just children's. "History of Children's Book Publishing (CHL 421) last spring was not a class I expected to appreciate so much," Howard said. "But it opened me up to an entirely new perspective. I also took the Whole Book Approach to Picturebook Art & Design, which opened my eyes to thinking visually, and about how we read and interpret pictures."

Howard said the reading-heavy nature of the program was another strong draw, and while that may make "others flee in the opposite direction, I think that is some of the appeal of this program, as students are constantly exposed to many literary works and criticism." Howard said of her experience in the program, "I appreciate that Simmons is a smaller institution with amazing, dedicated faculty who meet students where they are, and genuinely want their students to succeed. I feel constantly encouraged to be a better student; and I know I have access to well-connected professors and myriad resources that have contributed to my success here thus far." Whether looking into children's literature around the globe, dissecting narrative nonfiction for young adults, or exploring the realm of reviewing books for young readers, the Children's Literature faculty and program at Simmons provide students with a thorough, rigorous approach to this burgeoning area of critical study, insuring graduates with a variety of successes in the field.

Children's Literature Reading Suggestions from dual degree students Alec Chunn, Jillian Bailey, Carla Carpenter, and Grace Howard:

Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, Christian Robinson (Illustrator)
Night Gardner by Jonathan Auxier
Tenth of December by George Saunders
The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson 
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein 
You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons: The World on One Cartoon a Day by Mo Willems 
Visual Thinking Strategies: Using Art to Deepen Learning Across School Disciplines by Philip Yenawine 
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
YA novels of Andrew Smith
Graphic novels of Gene Luen Yang

By Dean's Communications Fellow Lily Troia