Nina D. Sanchez, co-founder of 51st Ward Books, Chicago’s first dedicated anti-racist and bilingual children’s bookstore, spent a lot of time participating at arts and humanities events in the city. She came to realize that while there is a wealth of literary events, none are singularly focused on reaching children.
“I thought that there should be an event that speaks directly to children, families and caregivers in a way that breaks through the segregation of our city, the separation of our community, and allows us to come together in a singular space to celebrate our stories,” Sanchez says.
With the collaboration of community partners and authors, 51st Ward Books is hosting the first annual kids anti-racist book festival, called Just Kids Books Festival, on Saturday, June 18., with the goal of uniting our diverse city through a shared love of books and reading.
The event provides access to carefully-curated experiences featuring authors, illustrators, and books for children and youth that prioritize storytelling by and for people of color, LGBTQIA+ and disabled communities.
The festival will feature storytimes, art making, workshops for parents and educators, a book expo and a marketplace featuring local, independent authors, and a range of culturally-relevant, anti-bias children’s texts.
“We are incredibly excited to partner with like-minded collaborators to expand access to culturally responsive and culturally affirming literature for children,” Sanchez says.
The current festival line-up includes:
- Pascuala Herrera: Latinx immigrant, disabled mother and author of the bilingual book, “My Mom Rocks; Her Chair Rolls”
- Zetta Elliott: Author of acclaimed series, “Dragons in a Bag,” “Say Her Name,” and “Moon Walking,” a novel in verse
- Claudia Guadalupe Martinez: Author of “Not a Bean” and the forthcoming “Still Dreaming”
- Rukia K.: Afro-Latinx author of “Latina Looks Like Me”
- Michael Brown: author of the award-winning series, “What I Tell Myself First,” and “My Black Life Matters”
- No Sé Discos Presents: Allá and CHEBAKA: Acclaimed Latinx indie-fusion record label artists
- Brave World Books: A new, AAPIA-led publishing company featuring cultural heritage classics updated for empowered children.
Ajanta Chakraborty, author of the bestselling series, “Maya & Neel’s India Adventures,” who will be hosting Indian dances and reading cultural stories, says this is a one-of-a-kind festival that every child should attend.
“Diverse books help kids feel represented and tie them stronger to their own roots,” says Chakraborty. “They also help kids open up their minds to different ways of living, making them more empathetic to the world.”
The Just Kids Book Festival takes places on June 18 at the Chicago Teachers Union Center, 1901 W. Carroll, Chicago. Attendees are encouraged to RSVP on the event’s website.
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