Go Ask Mom

Mobile children's pop-up bookstore highlights stories that feature African American children

In the past 24 years, only 13 percent of children's books included multicultural content, highlighting the stories and adventures of people of color who make up 37 percent of the U.S. population.

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Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
, Go Ask Mom editor
DURHAM, N.C. — In the past 24 years, only 13 percent of children's books included multicultural content, highlighting the stories and adventures of people of color who make up 37 percent of the U.S. population. In fact, according to Lee & Low, a publisher of diverse books for kids, only 7 percent of new children's books published in 2017 were written by black, Latino and Native American authors.
For parents with children of color, these are especially frustrating statistics. One study from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that 90 percent of teachers agreed that children would be "more enthusiastic readers" if they had books that mirrored their own lives and experiences. But it also means all children don't have the opportunity to learn and appreciate the lives and traditions of all people.
With her Liberation Station, Victoria Scott-Miller is hoping to change that. Scott-Miller, who shares two boys with her husband of 12 years, launched the program in 2019 to highlight books that feature African American children. She's been organizing regular programs in Durham.
And, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 18, at NorthStar Church of the Arts in Durham, the Liberation Station will host a book launch with noted children's book author Kelly Starling Lyons and her new book "Dream Builder" about acclaimed Durham architect Philip Freelon. Freelon, who is the architect of record for the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., died in July.

I checked in with Scott-Miller to learn more about the Liberation Station. Here's a Q&A.

Go Ask Mom: What's the Liberation Station all about?  Why did you get it started?
Victoria Scott-Miller: Liberation Station is about holding a mirror up to children who are often marginalized and underrepresented and saying I see you and here are the tools for you to see yourself. We do this by providing the literature (tools) that show empowering, positive, and historical narratives.

Liberation Station was started as an act of rebellion. While visiting a chain bookstore we realized that it took over an hour to find five books that were in the forefront, displayed and accessible that represented our children. We asked ourselves what it would look like to create an institution that gives access and forefronted the narratives where children of color are the main protagonist.

Photo credit: Clarence Burke and Omni
GAM: Tell us about your events and storytimes.
VS-M: Our storytime events are called Dreaming (IN). We created this name because we want the environment to fill in the blanks. Dreaming (IN COLOR) was held at The Durham Hotel because of its colorful aesthetic and was in alignment with the stories we read to represent children of color. Our upcoming storytime is Dreaming (IN NATURE) which is our winter storytime at Duke Gardens at 10 a.m., Jan. 13, Jan. 27, Feb. 10 and Feb. 24.
GAM: What happens when kids don't see themselves mirrored in the books they read? As a child, did you see yourself represented in the books that you read?
VS-M: When a child is not able to see themselves represented, they are not equipped to activate their voice, their ideas, or creativity boldly. I look at a book as a mirror. If a child does not see their reflection, they will not be able to see themselves. How can they fully arrive in their power?

I grew up seeing myself represented. My mother made it a point to introduce my sister and me to African-folklore, own voice writers, and powerful narratives of the Black experience

Photo credit: Clarence Burke and Omni
GAM: What's been the response so far?
VS-M: Photographer Roy Decarava said that “There were no black images of dignity, no images of beautiful black people. There was this big hole. I tried to fill it." I love this quote because it speaks to the measure of what we normalize and accept without even thinking. There were and continue to be significant holes of underrepresentation. I believe our impact is developing an expectation in people for these experiences to be both normalized and accessible.
GAM: What are your hopes for the future?
VS-M: My hope for the future is to expand our work and further our reach. This year, we are embarking on international liberation work and we’re excited to explore how the work we are doing now will impact other countries as well.
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