ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) — When we pick up a book, we typically identify with it– from the characters who may look like you or the stories that mirror your experiences.
But what happens when it doesn’t? That’s the case for many Black children.
Two local authors and sisters are working to change that by creating characters from all walks of life. Jennings Councilwoman Aja Owens and educator Adrienne Draper, who have published five books already, are hoping to the literature teaches to be accepting of others.
“We just want to make as many diverse experiences reflected in literature as possible,” Owens said.
Experts in African American studies say ficitional Black children remain almost as marginalized as real ones.
“I was in elementary school, I loved reading, but I didn’t come across a lot of books that were about us,” Draper said.
The sisters said they wanted to focus on creating children’s books and hopefully create a curriculum for kids to become published authors.
They said when children of color feel represented, their hopes, dreams, and goals feel attainable. And when white children are immersed in stories, where minorities take the lead, it helps them understand a world that elevates all voices.
Messages like empathy, compassion and community service are bookmarked in their children’s books.
“Seeing yourself in a book does do something different. When I came up with ‘ Missy’ they said that looks like me,” Draper said. “Those pigtails that something a lot of little girls could related to and even the message inside, I had kids say ‘Did you write that about me?’ because they could relate to the message.”
Both authors said representation matters in literature because seeing and reading about someone who looks like you could inspire you to do something you never even though of doing.
“To me, it’s important at a young age to put that message inside of kids to let them know you are powerful, ” said Owens. “You can be anything you want to be and not just tell them but show them the way, show them how they can be powerful, how they can tap into their greatness and it starts with words. It starts with those affirmations.”