The African American Children’s Book Fair: A Bridge Builder


The opportunity to experience your heritage is a wonderful thing. When I was a child, my grandmother and I took a train trip to Arizona and New Mexico, where I was able to see my Native American roots firsthand. It shifted how I grew up, what I thought of history, and has lasting effects into my education philosophy to this day. For our nations’ students, the 29th Annual African American Children’s Book Fair helps to fill the need of experiencing their heritage. 

The African American Children’s Book Project (AACBP) has long been invested in getting stories from Black Americans into the hands of our nation’s students. By compiling, organizing, and coordinating countless authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers, educators, librarians, businesses, and corporate groups, the AACBP seeks to make it easier for K-12 students and educators to get their hands on culturally relevant stories. 

A key reason I’m passionate about cultural-focused book fairs like this is simple; the enrichment of students via multicultural education in diverse literature is a universal good. By reading the history, perspectives, experiences, and imaginations of different cultures as a student, I was able to gain a wider view of those around me. Asian-centered stories fostered a love for the rich history of the Far East, Frederick Douglass and Justice Clarence Thomas gave me a love for political science, and Carlos Fuentes emboldened my love for theatre and short stories. In a time when so many are building movements by pitting cultures against one another, encouraging cultural education for the purpose of building bridges is beyond-worthy of our time.

This book fair isn’t shutting out other cultures, nor demanding the tearing down of classical Western canon, but is providing additional resources for the exploration of heritage to the young minds of the United States. The works offered at this book fair offer a window to students into the rich culture African Americans created in this country. Certainly, there are books offered that counter political narratives on many sides—books I politically disagree with. What does that matter? 

Our core goal as educators should always be to give our students a rich variety of material from which to learn. By reading literature from a diverse set of cultures, our students can make decisions that govern their perspectives throughout their lives. The 29th Annual African American Children’s Book Fair is taking place virtually on February 6th, and more information can be found here. I hope you dive into some of the excellent books provided, and find something new for the shelf!

Tony Kinnett
Tony Kinnett is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Chalkboard Review. He is an award-winning science teacher, and the former science coordinator and head instructional coach for Indianapolis Public Schools, until he was fired for whistleblowing information concerning the school system's use of racist material. In February, he was appointed the director of the education nonprofit Choice Media, now Chalkboard Media.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chalkboard Review team.

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