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Augusta Baker Chair

About the Augusta Baker Chair

Part of a Children, Libraries and Literacy Initiative of USC’s School of Library and Information Science, the chair honors Augusta Braxton Baker, a beloved children’s librarian and storyteller who made South Carolina her home after a 37-year career at the New York Public Library. The first African American Coordinator of Children’s Services within the NY Public Library system, she worked tirelessly throughout her career to diversify the genre of children’s literature and to make books for children and young adults more reflective of the young people who read them. Dr. Baker served as USC’s storyteller-in-residence for 14 years from 1980 to 1994.

Dr. Michelle Martin

Dr. Michelle Martin,  who specializes in children’s literature, African-American children’s literature and community literacy programs, joined the USC faculty in August 2011 as the Augusta Baker Chair in Childhood Literacy.

Martin has a Bachelor of Arts degree from The College of William and Mary (1984), an M.S. in Outdoor Teacher Education from Northern Illinois University (1991) and a Ph.D. in English, specializing in Children’s and Young Adult Literature and Composition from Illinois State University (1997).   Martin has served as president of the Children’s Literature Association, an organization dedicated to “encouraging high standards of criticism, scholarship, research and teaching in children’s literature” and helped to found USC’s Carolina Children’s Literature Consortium, an organization that brings faculty together from many disciplines across campus to encourage research and outreach in children’s literature and culture.   

Ongoing Activities

As Augusta Baker Chair, Dr. Martin conducts literature and literacy research that she hopes will positively impact literacy in South Carolina and beyond. Martin is the founder of the Read-a-Rama program (begun in 2001) and co-founder with Dr. Rachelle D. Washington of Camp Read-a-Rama (2009).  Read-a-Rama and Camp Read-a-Rama programs bring young people together with college students and college graduates who have studied children’s literature for book celebration programs that teach children and teens to “live books.”  Read-a-Rama programs and camps use children’s and young adult books as the springboard for all other activities. Camp Read-a-Rama has been in operation for six summers.

Martin is the author of Brown Gold: Milestones of African-American Children’s Picture Books, 1845-2002 (Routledge 2004) and co-editor with Claudia Nelson of Sexual Pedagogies: Sex Education in Britain, Australia, and America, 1879-2000 (Palgrave 2003). She has published articles in Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, The Lion & the Unicorn, and Sankofa: A Journal of African Children’s and Young Adult Literature, and Purdue’s First Opinions, Second Reactions, among other journals. Martin served as editor and co-author of Katie Stagliano's picture book, Katie's Cabbage (University of South Carolina Press/Young Palmetto Books, expected 2015), an autobiographical story of a nine year-old who is changing the landscape of American hunger and poverty one garden at a time.  Martin has chapters in the following edited collections: Claudia Nelson and Rebecca Morris's Representing Children in Chinese and American Children's Literature (expected 2015), Kafi Kumasi’s Ask Your Librarian: Letters to Youth (2012), Kent Baxter’s Critical Insights: Coming of Age (2012), Julia Mickenburg and Lynn Vallone’s Oxford Handbook of Children’s Literature (2011), Philip Nel and Lissa Paul’s Keywords for Children’s Literature (2011), Jonda McNair and Wanda Brooks’ Embracing, Evaluating and Examining African American Children’s and Young Adult Literature (2007), and Sydney I. Dobrin and Kenneth B. Kidds’ Wild Things: Children’s Literature, Ecocriticism, and Ecological Literacy (2004). 

As Baker Chair, Dr. Martin has given the annual Gryphon Lecture at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (2014) and the annual Lois Lenski Lecture at Illinois State University (2014), her alma mater. She presented the keynote for the A is for Anansi Conference (Literature for Children of African Descent) at New York University (2012); presented research at the first China-US Children’s Literature Symposium at Ocean University of China in Qingdao (2012) and spoken at the Yari Yari Ntoaso Conference (Women Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora) in Accra, Ghana (2013).

Martin works closely with the South Carolina Center for Children’s Books and Literacy, including the successful literacy program, Cocky’s Reading Express™ and serves on a recently formed Literacy Task Force that seeks to improve literacy throughout the state of South Carolina.