Book fair gives spotlight to Black children

The Black Child Book Fair Tour will bring its traveling event to Flanner House on Feb. 15, where Black children will get to see plenty of books featuring characters who look like them.

Only about 11% of children’s books are about African or African American characters, according to a 2018 analysis from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center School of Education at the University of Wisconsin.

That’s more than past years — it was about 5% in 2002 — but it still means Black children don’t see nearly as many books centered around people who look like them as compared to white children. (Native American, Asian American and Latinx children have less representation than Black children.)

The Black Child Book Fair aims to get those books in front of Black children and families.

The traveling book fair started two years ago. It traveled for the first time this year to St. Louis and Chicago and will make a stop in Indianapolis 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 15 at Flanner House, 2424 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St.

There will be about 20 authors at the book fair, according to Darryl Harvey, who founded the Black Child Book Fair Tour because he felt there hasn’t been a big emphasis on teaching children about Black history, especially in schools.

“We know that, historically, schools don’t promote Black history, and historically there’s not enough positive Black images for children to find,” he said.

This kind of event is apparently in high demand. Harvey, who’s also a children’s book author, said other cities have requested a stop along the tour, and the plan is to branch out from the Midwest and make it nationwide as early as next year.

“There appears to be a calling, or a need, in urban neighborhoods to have this literature,” he said.

The analysis from the University of Wisconsin showed a stagnant proportion of books featuring Black characters until around 2015, when it started to rise. There aren’t enough of these books, but there appears to be an upward trend.

“We want to provide positive images for Black children,” Harvey said. “We want them to read stories that are being created in the new millennium for them.”

Kionna Louise, a local author whose book will be featured, said she hasn’t ever been part of or even seen an event like this.

She published her first children’s book — “Jamila Pearl: The Architect Girl” — in 2018. The book is based on a 6-year-old version of her now-9-year-old daughter who’s curious about becoming an architect.

“This increases the representation needed for our young readers to see themselves in a larger spectrum,” Louise said.

Louise is owner and CEO of Next Great Architects, which introduces architecture to children as young as kindergarten. It can be difficult, she said, to get in front of students and tell them architecture can be a career dream like any other. Having a children’s book is an extension of that mission.

Louise said she wants her daughter to learn from events like the book fair about how to “trust her creativity … not just in her ability to do something, but creating the life she wants to have.”

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