Where are diverse voices in children’s books? Authors explore why that matters.

The children’s book, “Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut,” tells the story of an African-American’s boy’s experience getting his hair cut in a barbershop, sitting with other black men. The picture book is written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James.Denene Millner Books

The children’s book, “Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut,” tells the story of an African-American’s boy’s experience getting his hair cut in a barbershop, sitting with other black men.

The picture book, written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by award-winning illustrator Gordon C. James, has received a slew of awards, including the Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award.

Just like the boy in the book, James, a Charlotte illustrator, depicts the cool confidence of a young blood, taking in the lessons of his elders.

On Oct. 27, he will be one of the African-American authors and illustrators at the Celebrating Our Voices: The Black Children’s Literature Symposium & Book Festival. The event is at North Carolina Central University in H.M. Michaux Jr. School of Education Building.

Celebrating Our Voices offers two keynote addresses and two panel discussions followed by author readings, crafts and book signings. Admission is free and open to the public.

“There’s a lack of awareness of the number of black authors and illustrators who are creating literature for children,” said Kelly Starling Lyons, a Raleigh children’s book author and one of the organizers of Celebrating Our Voices. “We want to change that by showcasing the outstanding authors and illustrators in North Carolina.”

Calling Our Voices will start as a symposium from 9 a.m. to noon, exploring why diversity matters and how to build home and school and library collections that reflect the legacy of black children’s literature, Lyons said. The panels are titled “What Makes a Good African-American Children’s Book,” and “What are the Challenges of Preserving the Literary Legacy.”

Alan R. Bailey, an associate professor and head of the Teaching Resources Center at East Carolina University’s Joyner Library, will deliver one of the addresses. He is the chair-elect of the Coretta Scott King Book Award Committee, a part of the American Library Association.

Then the event will move to a festival in the afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m. North Carolina children’s book authors Tameka Fryer Brown, Johnny Ray Moore, Eleanora E. Tate and Carole Boston Weatherford will read from their work. North Carolina illustrators Gordon James, Keith Knight and Jeffery Weatherford will talk about their work as well.

These creators of children’s literature have produced more than 150 titles that celebrate the black experience through heritage and culture, offering affirming stories that help build self-esteem.

That includes Moore’s “The Story of Martin Luther King Jr.”; “Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement;” by Carole Boston Weatherford and “Ellen’s Broom,” by Lyons.

“It’s important for children not to just see themselves depicted on the page but also see themselves as the people writing and drawing their own stories,” Lyons said. “Their stories matter.”

Details

For more on Celebrating Our Voices: The Black Children’s Literature Symposium & Book Festival, go to aaero.org/celebrating-our-voices.

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