Philip Nel, giving commencement speech, Kansas State University, 10 Dec. 2022

Learning, Unlearning, and the Freedom to Read (commencement speech)

I was asked to give the commencement speech at the College of Arts and Sciences ceremony this morning. Here is the video — my speech begins at 15:01. Below, the full text.         Good morning, graduates, families, friends, fellow teachers and fellow learners — for we are all always learning and, I think, all always teaching.

My neighbor and my friend. #PlagueSongs, no. 14

Fred Rogers (1928-2003) was one of the kindest, most empathetic people in human history. We need more of his kindness and care in the world. That is one reason why this week’s Plague Song is the theme to his children’s television program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968-2001). I think, these days, fans of the show are

The author, Teddy, and Panda, c. 1972

The Archive of Childhood, Part 3: Earliest Memories

The third in my occasional “Archives of Childhood” series. The Archive of Childhood, Part 1: Crayons (27 Dec. 2014) The Archive of Childhood, Part 2: The Golliwog (13 Jan. 2015) What are your earliest memories? Recent conversations with family and friends have challenged my assumption that most people remember early childhood. I now wonder if it is

Gloria and Phil read Richard Scarry, 16May1971

For Mom

My mother was my first best friend. My mother is the reason I have succeeded in life. My mother is the reason I managed to live through adolescence. There have been many other important influences. Let’s not forget my sister, stepfather, friends, teachers, neighbors, and the many patient people who have managed to put up

A Manifesto for Children’s Literature; or, Reading Harold as a Teen-Ager (in the Iowa Review)

I’m honored to be a part of The Iowa Review‘s special section on children’s literature, and even more honored that the journal has chosen to feature my essay on-line, for free. Two and a half years ago, “A Manifesto for Children’s Literature; or, Reading Harold as a Teen-Ager” began as a blog post.  It means a great

Village Creek: map of lots, 1952

Created Equal: The Planned Integrated Community of Village Creek, Conn.

For America’s Independence Day, here’s a little-known chapter in the history of American anti-racism. Following the Second World War, progressives founded a dozen planned integrated communities across the country. While working on my biography of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss, I learned about one of those communities – a section of Norwalk Connecticut directly adjacent