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Go Ask Mom

Diverse children's books focus of Quail Ridge program

Posted February 20

Kelly Starling Lyons, children's author

There's a renewed focus in the children's book publishing industry to ensure that every child finds somebody like themselves within the pages of a book. Because, for many children from diverse backgrounds, it's difficult to find any character who looks like them.

Only about 10 percent of children's books contain some kind of multicultural content - a gap that has gone essentially unchanged since 1994, according to We Need Diverse Books, a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates and promotes literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.

In fact, Kelly Starling Lyons, an African-American author, mom and reader here in Raleigh, was an adult before she first saw an African-American girl featured on the cover of a picture book, "Something Beautiful" by Sharon Dennis Wyeth.

"As I read the story, I was touched in a special way," she writes on her website. "Growing up, I rarely saw kids who looked like me as the main characters of children's books. I loved books and treasured every story I read. But after reading 'Something Beautiful,' I knew I had missed something important – reflections of myself. Right then, I decided to add my voice."

Since then, Lyons, who I have written about before, has written acclaimed books such as "Tea Cakes for Tosh" and "Ellen's Broom." She is part of the team behind The Brown Bookshelf, which works to raise awareness of black children's book creators.

And, at 7 p.m., Tuesday, she'll be at Quail Ridge Books with Susie Wilde, children's book reviewer for The News & Observer, to evaluate and recommend multicultural children's books. The session is designed for teacher and media specialists, but the public is invited to attend.

They'll also talk about trends in children's books in 2016 when we saw many multicultural books, including "Freedom Over Me," "Freedom in Congo Square," "Radiant Child," and "March: Book Three," co-written by Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights leader, honored in the recent American Library Association awards.

Also part of Tuesday night's event, Author Frye Gaillard will shares his new book, "Go South to Freedom," a novel based on the real-life flight of slaves and  their acceptance by the Seminole Indians.  It's best for ages 10 and up. Lyons also will share some details about her upcoming chapter books for young readers - the Jada Jones series.

Quail Ridge Books' website has more information about the event.

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