September is National Literacy Month! It’s the perfect time to support your favorite literacy organization or cause. We hope we’re your favorite—or at least one of them. If you are looking for a great event to attend or donate to, Black Children’s Books and Authors is having our first fundraiser. On Saturday, September 30, 2017, BCBA will host the Our Stories Matter Laps for Literacy 2-Mile Walk in Memphis, Tennessee. Although BCBA was active on social media beginning in 2013 and launched our website in 2015, our organization was officially incorporated as a nonprofit in 2016. So now we are gearing up for more community activities.
Our mission is to promote awareness of children’s and young adult literature by Black authors. The children’s publishing statistics alone are reason enough to support a literacy organization like BCBA. In 2016, Black authors wrote less than 3% of the traditional children’s books published. However, multicultural children’s literature scholar, Rudine Sims Bishop, captured the essence of why it is essential for children to see themselves in literature by saying, “Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection, we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.” Here are a few more thoughts from Black children’s authors that speak on the importance of diverse, inclusive literature:
“When a child opens a book, and sees a face that looks like them, they know that they matter.”—Debbie Allen
“I read a lot, but books didn’t really touch me, probably because there weren’t a lot of books for or about young black children. That’s not to say that blacks have to read ‘black’ books, but you do need to read something that really touches you to develop that love for books.”—Christopher Paul Curtis
“I write predominantly about black children because I grew up believing I was invisible in the real world, and it hurt just as much to discover that I was also invisible in the realm of the imaginary.”—Zetta Elliot
“Childhood is the time when we can introduce the variety of cultures around us and plant the seeds of global thinking. We can cultivate an understanding that there are other peoples in the world, and that we have more in common than we imagine…children’s literature is a place where we can break down those barriers.”—Nikki Grimes
“One can never take any image for granted. Images, whether in print, on film, or television, or on stage, are constantly shaping the way we feel and what we think and believe. That is particularly crucial to the black community, which has been deliberately given negative images of its history and culture. I find it rewarding to help reshape and change those negative images to reflect the truth. I think the struggle to present the correct images—the truth—is the most important one facing us all.”—Wade Hudson
“Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books?”—Walter Dean Myers
“I hope that everyone can look in a book and see themselves in it—not just one group of people or one standard of beauty. Because telling a one-sided story doesn’t allow for others to have self-love.”—Ilyasah Shabazz
“In most literature, the lives of the people that I knew did not exist. My mother, for instance, was nowhere in the literature, and she was all over my heart, so why shouldn’t she be in literature.”—Alice Walker
“Reading is how I learned to put myself in someone else’s shoes.”—Renee Watson
Your support of the Our Stories Matter Laps for Literacy 2-Mile Walk will help BCBA implement more activities, services, and events online and in the community. If you can’t join us, you still can give a donation. Go here to find out how. If you can walk with us, register on the Laps for Literacy page. We’ll see you there! Our stories matter.