2nd Annual African American Children’s Book Fair

— Just when will books reflect the population? This is the question posed in a recent editorial in The Baltimore Sun. This makes the museum’s 2nd Annual African American Children’s Book Festival on Saturday May 10, 2014 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. a timely event. Free and open to all ages.

According to the University of Wisconsin, of the 5,000 books published in 2013 for children and teens, only 63 were by African American authors, and only 48 books were by Latino authors. The piece follows a March editorial in the New York Times about the lack of minority authors in children’s literature.

The free book fair features readings by 25 award-winning authors and illustrators, cultural performances, interactive storytelling and craft activities including bookbinding demonstrations by local book artists. It is the largest fair between Atlanta and Philadelphia that celebrates books about African Americans, as well as African American authors and illustrators. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will give a reading at 2 p.m.

“It’s critical to have books and role models that reflect young readers,” says Executive Director Dr. Skipp Sanders. “Otherwise, the risk becomes that our next generation grows up feeling invisible, and it becomes that much harder for them to build a positive self-image at a critical time in development.”

Author talks include one by Wade and Cheryl Hudson, pioneers in children’s publishing. They launched “Just Us Books” more than two decades ago after an unsuccessful search for books for their children about black history and experiences. The final push came when an editor told them “there’s no market for black children’s books.”

Illustrator and Maryland native Bryan Collier, winner of the 2014 Coretta Scott King Book Award for Illustration, will talk about his award-winning work for the book “Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream For Me.”

The Reginald Lewis Museum believes that now is a critical time to encourage change within the world of children’s literature. Although racial and ethnic minorities make up 35 percent of the U.S. population, less than five percent of books published are about them.

“Through this fair, we also hope to foster a love of reading and perhaps tomorrow’s award-winning author or illustrator, to begin breaking the cycle of absence of minorities in children’s literature,” says Dr. Sanders. “This event is not just for African Americans, but anyone who wishes to introduce a child to the diverse world in which we live.”

To help promote literacy, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum will distribute 500 paperback books with knapsacks to children who attend the book fair.

For a complete list of Book Fair authors and events, visit the museum’s website: www.rflewismuseum.org.