“Asian American History IS American History” receives AASL Roald Dahl's Miss Honey Social Justice Award

For Immediate Release
Fri, 04/15/2022


Allison Cline

Deputy Executive Director

American Association of School Librarians (AASL)



CHICAGO – The “Asian American History IS American History” project from Dunwoody Elementary School in Dunwoody, Georgia, is the recipient of the 2022 American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Roald Dahl's Miss Honey Social Justice Award. Sponsored by Penguin Random House, the Roald Dahl Award recognizes collaboration between school librarians and teachers in the instruction of social justice using school library resources.

Sparked by the tragic Atlanta spa shooting in 2021, school librarian Sarah Sansbury and 4th-grade social studies curriculum lead Emma O’Connor, became keenly aware that their students needed to be seen, heard, and validated as American and as part of the fabric that makes up American history. Their 4th graders, as part of the state standards, learn about the general happenings of the Westward Expansion in America, which does not include the Asian-American experience during the 1800s—even though the majority of Dunwoody Elementary identify as Asian.

“The committee was impressed at so many levels with the “Asian American History IS American History” project. The project is an exemplary model that showcases an age-appropriate approach to what can be a difficult topic, using a mix of school library resources including a novel, picture books, and video, and demonstrates outstanding connections between students, teachers, the librarian, and community partners,” said Committee Chair Dedra Van Gelder. “The committee also commends the lasting impact of this project that ‘help students to build their own identities allowing them to see themselves through the learning experience and expand their view of history through the lens of other people, thus sowing the seeds of how to view the contributions of all people.’”

Sansbury shared, “We knew that we wanted our culminating project to affect more than just our students, for it to have a positive effect beyond our school walls—to make a difference in our community. We decided to have our students create a StoryWalk® to be set up in our local community park.” Sansbury reached out to Gina Jenkins, Head of Youth for DeKalb Public Library, and the collaborative project expanded with the Friends of the Library generously donating a hardcover copy to every fourth grader to go home with them when the novel study was complete.

“Just as Sarah and Emma took such a valuable project outside of the walls of the school library, so to in their words, the learner’s ‘study of the Westward Expansion went beyond learning the standards: it fostered empathy and the urge for social justice,’” said AASL President Jennisen Lucas. “In reflecting on AASL’s Learner Standard, Include, to ‘demonstrate an understanding of and commitment to inclusiveness and respect for diversity in the learning community’ this project aligns with every competency and is a model for school librarians seeking to increase their learning community’s perspective from a global learning community.”

The AASL award winners will be recognized during the 2023 AASL National Conference taking place October 19-21 in Tampa, Florida.

The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning.