It’s February and it’s Black History Month! A month where we honor and celebrate those that are important in our history or have made a difference in not just Black History but history in general. As I get older I have a better understanding of the importance of celebrating Black History, especially as a black woman. As February comes to a close, there’s something else very special that is happening this month for the first time ever! Starting the last Sunday in February and for the whole week, I will be celebrating Black Children’s Book Week and you can celebrate too!
Meeting Other Authors
As a new, self-published author, it has been important for me to connect with other authors who are at different stages in their author journey. It’s not only helpful for me in my own journey, but I also get to learn about the many wonderful things that other authors are doing with children’s books. After launching my book, I connected with authors who wrote several types of children’s books, but I also found myself following authors with characters that looked more like the characters in my book.
Through my virtual connections (this is where social media can be such a great tool) with other authors, I came across many authors who made it their mission to make sure that black children are represented in books and that they have access to books with characters that look like them. Veronica Chapman over at Black Baby Books founded Black Children’s Book Week just for this! And, this first time ever event will take place this year the last week of February, from February 27th to March 5th, and follow suit every year after.
Why it’s important to me:
When I came across Veronica’s posts over social media about Black Children’s Book Week, I knew I wanted to follow along and get involved. It touched my heart as I read what it was about. It was something I often thought about with my own girls and it reminded me of when I was a little girl in school.
As a mom, you want more than anything for your kids to feel like they have a place in this big wide world. And you realize how important it is that your children feel represented. In the simplest form (at least the way I see it) it means seeing people that look like them doing things that they want to do or can aspire to do in life.
I want my girls to know about and be exposed to all kinds of people of many cultures. But, I also want them to feel recognized and loved in our world. I knew there was something missing when I was a young girl, but I didn’t understand it. Now, I realize how important it is that your children feel represented.
A little background
It was very important to my parents that my brother and I had a good education. They worked hard so we could live comfortably and go to good schools. In the schools I attended, there were very few students who looked like me and we noticed! If I think back, there were things I didn’t think I could do or I felt I would look silly trying because there wasn’t anyone I knew who looked like me doing it (if that makes any sense).
I’m glad I went on to believe in myself and continued to do the things that I wanted to accomplish. But not everyone has the confidence to do that. I didn’t always have the confidence, but I can be determined and I don’t like to quit and that’s a huge help. However, not everyone has the motivation within themselves or has the role models in their everyday lives to show them what’s possible. That’s why books with representation at a young age are so important.
There are so many wonderful children’s books out there covering so many topics. Luckily, children are read to often in school. But, what if they had characters in the books that look like them. They might be able to relate more, listen closer, and allow themselves to dream bigger. Then they might know that they are capable of accomplishing anything.
When I was a little girl, the only books that had black characters that I remember in school were books about slaves, or Martin Luther King Jr. I remember being so uncomfortable when the history lessons about slavery came. Everyone would be looking at me or feeling bad for me, the only little black girl in the class. It didn’t feel good having the only people in books that looked like me were to do with slavery or the oppression of black people. I know there may have been other books, but there weren’t enough to make a difference!
What about the everyday characters that tell a story to say goodnight, or a story about going to the dentist, or a day at the park or school? What about families like mine who were making a good life for themselves? They just weren’t available. They had yet to be written.
Brighter Days for Black Children
And this is why I am so excited to share the inaugural event of Black Children’s Book Week. What an excellent way to end Black History Month. Sharing books with diverse characters with all children is so so important for so many reasons. Representation of children and their diverse backgrounds has such a positive impact on their lives. I loved books as a child and I think about how it could have been for myself and others if we had had access to many of the books with black characters today. I think about what that could have done for our self-esteem and character. It makes me happy for the children today. New black children’s books are being published every day.
The Black Children’s Book Week website lists amazing events and how to get involved. You can simply read a book with black characters to your children, grandchildren, or your students. Authors, teachers, parents, grandparents, librarians, and more across the country and around the world are taking part to show love to black children.
A Few Ways I’m Getting Involved
📚Back an author on Kickstarter:
I found that creating a Kickstarter campaign was one of the best ways to get others to notice my book and create excitement. Supporting other authors’ Kickstarter campaigns was one way I could help new books get out into the market. You can do a search on Kickstarter at any given time and find projects to donate to.
The great thing is that by donating you’ll usually get your own copy of the book to keep. I chose to donate to books I found from following other authors and small publishing companies on Instagram. Searching hashtags like #blackchildrensbookauthors or #diversechidrensbooks will help you find new books. Books that aren’t in the library or local bookstores yet! Books that I donated to were Dear Little Brown Girl by Jenelle Dunn and Which Cape Will I Wear Today? by Kiara Berry. I can’t wait to share these books with my daughters and the school.
📚Donate copies of my book:
When I created my Kickstarter project, I made sure I left room for donations. I wanted to be able to print copies that I could give away to libraries, students, organizations, etc. It was also important that I was sure they got into children’s hands that needed to find a book like mine. I was able to find more organizations on the Black Children’s Book Week website to donate my book to. If you’re not an author you can always purchase children’s books with black characters to donate. You can also donate books to Little Free Libraries. Go to their website and find out where one of those cute little library stands might be located. We had one in our old neighborhood.
📚Read Aloud in Schools:
World Book Day and Read Across America fall in the same week as Black Children’s Book Week. So, I’m excited to be reading my book to a few preschool classrooms. You can choose any book with a black main character. I of course chose mine for many reasons you probably can imagine. One reason is that I can guarantee that it’s a book they haven’t heard before! 😉
📚Black Children’s Book Week Virtual Shoppable Museum of Black Representation:
I decided to add my book to this virtual museum. It’s a novel idea. People can go into the museum and look through books and learn about Black History, and so much more! They are even talking about doing virtual field trips with classrooms in the near future.
📚Share Black Children’s Book Week with others:
These days, events like this are so easy to share. I plan to share on my social media channels, with teacher friends, and anyone that might benefit from this special week. In turn, I hope they will share with others and have fun taking part in some of the events. Sharing is caring, right?!
📚Add to my library:
I realized my family’s collection of black children’s books was really lacking. Since I’ve connected with so many authors with beautiful children’s books, why not buy a few to add to our library? So I did just that. I found some books that I knew my girls would love. And after we enjoy it, I’ll be sure to write a review.
📚Leave a review for a black children’s book:
Positive reviews help others discover new books. Sharing why you enjoyed reading a particular book shows others that the book is worth the read! So, don’t forget to take the time to leave a review for a children’s book you enjoyed. You can do that by leaving a review on the site where you bought the book, or find the author’s contact information and send them a message about how you enjoyed their book.
Will you be a part of this global celebration? There are lots of ways to check out what’s going on or be a part of the celebration. Visit the website! You’ll find events you can join across the US and around the world. The hope is that each year the event will get bigger and reach more corners of the world. You can check out the checklist on the website if you want more ideas and a calendar of events. Most of all, I hope you discover new books and share them with children who can benefit from hearing them. Whether it is your children, your students, your nieces, nephews, or grandchildren, make sure you share. Whomever you decide to share Black Children’s Book Week with, enjoy it! Know that you are doing something well worth it!