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From the Director: February 2019

From the Director

It has been 30 years since the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English came up with the idea to sponsor an African-American Read-In. The event, held each year during Black History Month, highlights the contributions of African-American authors to literature.

Since the NCTE adopted the concept, the African-American Read-In has gained momentum. Each February, organizations all around the world host events in their communities. In 2018, 73,345 people participated in read-ins across 34 states and Canada, shining a spotlight on African-American authors and encouraging young people to take an interest in reading. 

The ultimate goal is to promote diversity in literature. Authors of color, including African-American authors, are underrepresented in literature in general, and are particularly difficult to find in children’s literature. According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, a research library that focuses on the field of children’s and young adult literature, African-American and Latino authors wrote only 7 percent of new children’s books published in 2017. Of 3,700 children’s books reviewed by CCBC in 2017, only 340 of them featured African-American characters or content, and only 100 of them were actually written by black authors. That’s a significant diversity gap that the African-American Read-In hopes to change.

I’m proud to say that the Orange County Library System is one of the organizations that participate in this important event each year. As part of our celebration of Black History Month, we’ll host the African-American Read-In on February 24 at 2 p.m. at the Orlando Public Library. The event features music, dance and readings by local authors, leaders, storytellers and athletes. Our list of participants this year includes Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Orange County Clerk of Courts Tiffany Moore Russell, Nerd Nite Orlando host Ricardo Williams, Paralympic athlete April Holmes and WESH-2 News anchor Jasmin Bailey. This is always an uplifting and fulfilling event with an important mission, and I hope you will join us.

Of course, that’s not the only event we’re hosting in honor of Black History Month – we’ll also have a variety of other events and programs, including a Black History Month celebration at our Southeast Branch, a showing of the PBS documentary Race: The Power of Illusion at our Edgewater Branch, music from Afropop band Wassalou in the Orlando Public Library, and plenty more. Check out our Black History Month webpage for more events, locations and details.

Mary Anne Hodel, Library Director/CEO