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Why I have Written and Continue to Write Children’s Books

In 2017 the number of books about Africans/African Americans totaled 340 published in the world. Just over one-third of those books, (35%) to be exact were written by African or African American authors or illustrators. The remaining 65% were written about us by people other than us.

When compared with numbers of books published in the U.S. alone during the years 2015-2017 only 38% of all books published about Africans/African Americans were written and illustrated by African Americans. The information used was compiled a published by the University of Wisconsin’s School of Education’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center. [1]

While the numbers look promising the real truth is,

in 2016, Black, Latinx, and Native authors combined wrote just 6% of new children’s books published. One researcher described the challenge of Black and People of Color having opportunities to write, illustrate and publish books about children of color as “Apartheid in Children’s Literature”.

Kathleen Horning the Director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center says, [2]that the reluctance to tell stories about people of color is something that you see across multiple fields, from television to the Academy Awards to publishing. "There's no problem with publishing five or six books in a season about bunnies," Horning said. "But if we're talking about books about black boys?"

African Americans and people of color are at least in part responsible for the problem for three key reasons and perhaps even more.

  1. We don’t make reading a priority in our lives and therefore don’t search out literature that reflects our faces and promote the life-affirming values of our culture.

  2. We read, but we don’t value writers who are not listed on a bestseller’s list or are not promoted in the local bookstore or Amazon. As long as we rely solely upon those channels, we will fail our children and our communities because we don’t control those channels. We must choose our own great thinkers and writers for ourselves.

  3. We live in an increasingly racially charged environment but act as though we live in a post racial world saying things such as, “I want my children exposed to more that just black literature or the black community.”

It has been said that “there is no difference between a person who will not read and a person who cannot read.” Each person is equally ignorant of the knowledge available through books.

Why I write and produce Books for our people and our children

I began writing at age 16 and haven’t stopped writing since. I wrote the stories “Tooma and the Seven Truths” and “Why The Mandiaka Laughs” before I knew about the deficit in African American writers and illustrators published works. I wrote these stories because I know that culture is communicated through the stories we tell and the stories we remember.

We cannot hope to pass on to the next generation our values without well written and simple tales that reflect their faces, affirms life as part of a community, instructs their lives and informs their values and actions.

Each of the stories creates an opportunity for the parent or the care-giver to connect with the child through reading the story to them and discussing its meaning. Each story has a value at its center and as such are fables or moral stories designed to teach a truth that the child will remember and carry with them into adulthood.

Perhaps each child will love the story so much that they want to read it to their children or even begin to imagine and write and illustrate stories themselves.

I am writing to touch and to empower the heart and soul of the generation of children and grandchildren who will follow us.

I have created a Framework that guides my writing in every genre:

Cultural Imperative for Artistic, Creative and Intellectual Expression (CIACIE) Principles Framework

• Take Control of the Narrative

• Create or Appropriate the Distribution and Channels

• Inundate the channels with opportunities for your narrative to succeed

• Drive the Conversation

• Use Words That Work – Be Persuasive

• Provide Analysis of challenges & opportunities without drawing conclusions

• Reference all information

• Site Evidence where possible

• Present and accept multiple avenues to achieve the common goal

• Solicit input for viable solutions

• Open the Flow through ideation

• Educate to raise the level of thinking to solve more problems

© 2018 Garry M. Spotts

[1] [2] Source: NPR Code Switch

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