I’ve visited schools and libraries around the country. There’s nothing like seeing a child grinning or listening raptly as you read. Or watching them clutch a cherished book in their hands. It fills my heart when my books and others are shared and appreciated. But what happens when they’re banned?
I found out recently that Sing a Song: How Lift Every Voice & Sing Inspired Generations was on a list of books and diversity resources “frozen” by the Central York School District in York, PA. I was disgusted and outraged. I’ve been to York as the speaker for their 1000 Books Before Kindergarten celebration. I shared my Ty’s Travels easy reader, All Aboard, and picture book, One More Dino on the Floor, with parents, children and educators. I met so many loving people who care about reading and understand the importance of diversity. Thinking of them broke my heart.
Like people around the country, I ached for the children and educators who were being denied access to titles celebrating the beauty of diversity and centering history that has been marginalized for far too long. The list included books by NC creators like Around Our Way on Neighbor’s Day by Tameka Fryer Brown; Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut and I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James; Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford and Refugee by Alan Gratz.
Thanks to activism by people in York including inspiring high school students and national attention, the resources are available again. But the threats to reading freedom in the U.S. and around the globe never stop. Just yesterday, one of my friends at The Brown Bookshelf told me about a petition to try to halt a virtual visit by Newbery medalist and Coretta Scott King Author Award winner Jerry Craft to schools in Katy, TX. His graphic novels, New Kid and Class Act, are beloved by countless children.
Books by Black, Native and authors of color and LGBTQIA authors are among those regularly challenged. Here’s a list of some of the top 10 banned titles for the last several years.
Looking for ways to help? Here are resources to celebrate Banned Books Week and show support all year long. Also, please show love to children’s book authors in our state and beyond. Check out Writers and Illustrators of North Carolina (WINC) and SCBWI-Carolinas. Consider donating books and time to local organizations like Book Harvest.
Our kids need us.
Want to know what I’m up to or check out kidlit events? Here’s a list:
Zipping and Zooming in Henderson
I love StoryWalks. I’ve been blessed to have a couple of my books featured on trails – Going Down Home with Daddy in Philly and Sing a Song in NJ.
Now, there’s going to be one close to home. A StoryWalk for Ty’s Travels: Zip, Zoom opened Saturday at Fox Pond Trail in Henderson, NC. I participated in the celebration by doing a program at Perry Memorial Library that morning. Thank you to the library team for choosing Zip, Zoom as the first book featured. And thanks to award-winning illustrator Nina Mata whose depiction of Ty and his world are magic.
Celebrating a new picture book about Ernie Barnes, a Durham native son
Join me at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, October 19 for a conversation with award-winning children’s book creator, Don Tate, sponsored by Durham County Public Library and the Durham Arts Council. He is the author and illustrator of a wonderful new picture book about Durham native son, Ernie Barnes, called Pigskins to Paintbrushes: The Story of Football-Playing Artist Ernie Barnes. There will also be an online gallery of art from that book hosted by the Durham Arts Council.
Meet and Greet Children’s Book Authors at Quail Ridge Books
Judy Allen Dodson’s debut children’s book, Escape from Hurricane Katrina, came out in July. She’ll celebrate the release of her Junior Library Guild-honored title with a meet and greet/signing at Quail Ridge Books on Sunday, October 10 from 2-4 p.m.
I have Office Hours on the Piedmont Laureate FaceBook page every second Monday from noon to 1 p.m. In celebration of my new chapter book, Jada Jones: Sky Watcher, I’m having a meet and greet and signing at Quail Ridge Books on Saturday, November 20 from 2-4 p.m. I’m happy to answer questions about writing children’s books, share diverse book recommendations and sign any of my books.
So You Want to Write a Children’s Book
I’m teaching a class on Sunday, November 10 at the North Carolina Writers Network fall conference called So You Want to Write a Children’s Book. Have you dreamed of writing for kids? Start your journey with me in a workshop designed to introduce you to the field. Gain an understanding of children’s book genres. Mine your life for ideas. Get insight into the business of writing for kids including submitting and persevering.