Thirty years filling black children’s arms with books
A conversation with Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, CEO and Founder of The African American Children’s Book Project and book fair
By Afea Tucker
The 30th Annual African American Children’s Book Fair will take place live and in person on Saturday, February 26 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
The book fair is organized by the African American Children’s Book Project (AACBP), which was established to promote and preserve children’s literature written by and about Black Americans.
“At AACBP, we know that early access to books plays an important role in shaping lifelong readers,” said Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, CEO and Founder of The African American Children’s Book Project (AACBP).
Lloyd-Sgambati wears many hats in the publishing world. She is also CEO and founder of The Literary Media and Publishing Consultants, a public relations firm specializing in publishing.
For more than 30 years, the company has served as a literary consultant to authors, illustrators, consumers, booksellers, educators, publishers and corporations interested in literacy.
In preparation for the annual African American Children’s Book Fair, AACBP has collaborated with authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers, educators, librarians, consumers and corporate bodies committed to promoting the literacy.
“We had the book fair in 2020, because the pandemic didn’t really affect us until March, and we had a virtual event, and after everything that happened in 2021, people were still asking for information. on the books,” Lloyd-Sgambati mentioned. “We had a global virtual event [in 2021]3,000 people connected from all over the world, from Rome, from Paris, from Botswana, from all over the United States.
This year will mark the return of the in-person book fair since the pandemic began. Doors will open on the 26th at 1 p.m. and the fair will end at 4 p.m.
“Parents would call me and say, ‘I need ideas for books.’ There are bookstores here in the city, but the kind of thing we do is so huge,” Lloyd-Sgambati said. “I have 30 of the best children’s authors and illustrators – the best – people who receive awards.”
“They just had the American Library Association [meeting]and I bring those people to Philadelphia, where kids can see people who look like them, and then see books that reflect their likeness,” she said.
The book fair is known for showcasing nationally acclaimed authors and illustrators who have been highlighted on numerous bestseller lists and have won some of the American Library Association’s (ALA) most prestigious awards.
This year’s events will feature four of ALA’s new award-winning books. This includes Jason Reynolds, National Ambassador for Children’s Literature.
“Jason Reynolds is the national ambassador for children’s books,” Lloyd-Sgambati said. “Most kids won’t see him, because when he comes he usually doesn’t come to a signing.”
“There are so many names on this year’s list,” she continued. “One after another, people who have excelled in their particular sector of the publishing industry, and they come willingly because, people, you have to be invited.”
Lloyd-Sgambati does extensive research to find what she believes to be the best quality and appropriate books for her audience.
“You have to be invited, because I want books from people, who are at the highest level who educate, empower, enlighten and enrich the lives of our children,” she said.
Given the recent increase in crime and violence, Lloyd-Sgambati believes the work she is doing is essential in these times.
“The work I do is so important to our community with all the violence you see,” she said. “There is a community in Philadelphia that embraces this effort.”
This year’s African American Children’s Book Fair program includes book signings, opportunities to meet and greet authors and illustrators, workshops, consumer education on literature trends and resources youth, tips on building home libraries, and information on initiatives to promote Black American children’s literature. around the world.
“When people say black people don’t read, they’ve never been to Philadelphia and never seen the outpouring of love for books,” Lloyd-Sgambati said.
Leah Henderson is one of the authors who will be present at the 30th edition of the African American Children’s Book Fair.
“This book fair is absolutely phenomenal,” Henderson said. Henderson first experienced the book fair in 2016.
“One of the attendees who was a permanent attendee invited me several years ago,” she said. “And just to drop by and see it. When I walked into the space and saw so many people with stacks and stacks of books in their arms, so many black kids running to tables looking and looking for books that had characters that looked like on the covers, which was why we write.
“As a black creative, that’s what you want
see,” Henderson continued. “You want to see kids who look like you get so excited to see books where you’ve portrayed them.” Henderson thinks the book fair is kind of an adventure for young readers.
“It’s one of the reasons why this book fair is near and dear to me, and to participate in it is an absolute honor and privilege,” she said. “Again, I think it’s about why we write, why we do what we do, seeing their faces. To see the faces of their parents, the faces of their grandparents, or the teachers discovering that these are books that really present our experience in different ways. »
While giving her thoughts and reasons for the importance of having a niche book fair in the city of Philadelphia, Lloyd-Sgambati recalled a conversation she had with an industry peer. . “I spoke with someone who has a bookstore in Boston, and he told me he’s black, he’s in an urban area, and he said 90% of his customers are white,” he said. she declared. “And so I said, ‘Well, you haven’t done the right outreach for these people, because black people will read. We have a history of literacy in our community.
And people will deny it, but one of the things our ancestors did, even when they couldn’t read [themselves]they made sure that their children went to school, even if it was perhaps to go to school just to acquire the basics of learning to read”,
“We are used to wanting to be educated in our communities, and sometimes circumstances prevent us from doing that,” Lloyd-Sgambati continued. “But we’re not a people who don’t value literacy. I keep hammering this message into people’s heads, that I couldn’t survive 30 years without the support of the [Black] community.”
“There are adults who participated as children who are now bringing their children. It has become a generational experience,” she said.
For more information on the upcoming book fair, visit: https://theafricanamericanchildrensbookproject.org/.