Of about 3,500 books published for children and teens last year in the U.S., just 116 were published by black authors, and only 319 were about black people, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) at the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The CCBC receives a majority of the new U.S. trade books published for kids every year.
Also, just 108 of the books were penned by Latinos, and 205 were about Latinos, according to the CCBC data.
Oakland-based Robert Liu-Trujillo, the author of several bilingual children’s books, is no fan of those statistics. And so he was particularly pleased to discover the relatively new Multicultural Children’s Bookstore at the Shops at Hilltop in Richmond, a volunteer-run effort to provide recreational reading for the community that reflects the community.
Not only that, Liu-Trujillo got involved. On Sunday, Dec. 9, Liu-Trujillo will be among about a dozen Bay Area authors of children’s books who will sign books and read to children in the Center Court of The Shops at Hilltop, 2200 Hilltop Mall Road. The inaugural Multicultural Children’s Book Fair will take place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
“Literacy is really important…being able to read and write is really important to be successful, not just in academics but in life,” Liu-Trujillo said.
The lack of diversity in the books children read negatively impacts the education of children of all backgrounds and cultures, particularly people of color, the author said.
“It’s important for those children and families to see a reflection of themselves; to see that their story is worth telling,” Liu-Trujillo said.
Organizers aim for the The Multicultural Children’s Book Fair to become an annual event that won’t only bring attention to the authors and illustrators, but also to the fledgling mall bookstore.
The Multicultural Children’s Bookstore is a collaborative project of two nonprofits: literacy advocate Robin Wilson’s West County READS and author Tamara Shiloh’s Just Imagine Kids. The project has thus far been a success.
The Standard recently visited the bookstore’s “It’s Story Time” series on Saturdays, where free live book readings for kids occur. Here’s the review from reporter Kathy Chouteau:
“The vibrantly decorated store, which features lots of spots for kicking back and perusing a favorite title, displays a multitude of books mirroring the cultural diversity of its clientele—who were clearly soaking it up that day.”
Liu-Trujillo first got involved when he asked the bookstore to sell his book. Intrigued by the bookstore’s mission, he became more involved, joining forces with Shiloh and others on The Bay Area Black Author’s Network.
Shiloh said the network was inspired by her participation on the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA), where she is a board member. BAIPA provides a wealth of great information about publishing, Shiloh says. She wants to connect more African American authors and illustrators to that information.
The book fair on Dec. 9 is the first event by The Bay Area Black Author’s Network, Shiloh said.