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San Antonio Black book festival encourages children to read, write, sign up for library cards

San Antonio Black book festival encourages children to read, write, sign up for library cards - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Theatre arts teacher and author Anna L. Riley showcase Riley's newest edition of the sci-fi/fantasy novel "A Seeker of Honor and Redemption" during the fifth annual San Antonio African American Book Festival, Feb. 24, 2024. Photo by Johnathan Pena.

The fifth San Antonio African American Book Festival celebrated Black literature during Feb. 24 at Second Baptist Community Center. This annual  Black History Month event is meant to stress the value of representation and encourage Black economic development. 

This family-friendly event was independently organized by the festival’s founder Monica Brite, and was managed by the Friends of Carver Library 

Over 60 African American authors from all over the nation participated, including keynote author Cary Clack, the first Black columnist and editorial board member of the San Antonio Express-News. Clack discussed his journey as an author/journalist and his newest book: “More Finish Lines to Cross.” 

“More Finish Lines to Cross” includes more than 80 pieces about current and critical issues: the presidencies of Joe Biden and Donald Trump, the war in Ukraine, the impact of COVID, the death of George Flyod and the mass shooting of schoolchildren in Uvalde, Texas.

This year’s festivities included elementary to high school level book-writing workshops, word search puzzles and story-times featuring authors from the SAAAB for children. 

The importance of literacy in Black children

Brite said she encourages children to read at a young age because it enhances their reading and comprehension skills.

“We have until third grade for children to be reading at their level, and comprehension is scary,” Brite said. “It’s scary because a kid can read fast and not comprehend any of it, which lowers their chance in graduating, having a good job and life.” 

Black Children’s Book Week is Feb. 25 – March 2, and Brite hoped to inspire children at the festival to read by challenging them, along with over 100 other participants, to sign up for a San Antonio Public Library Card. 

“Setting that expectation to go to a library and getting a library card makes it a point for them to start reading young and interested in reading,” Brite said. “Kids like to learn, they love it, but if we make it seem like it’s a daunting task they won’t read.”

Brite said African American Children are coming up as the lowest reading comprehension skills due to poverty, lack of education and institutionalized racism. Before enslaved Africans in Texas were freed in 1865, it was illegal for African Americans to read or write and was punishable by death.

“That is a generational curse we have to break. We didn’t curse ourselves, but we have to fix the problem,” Brite said.

Now, Black book festivals can be found in every major city in Texas – Houston, Austin and Dallas/Fort Worth. 

These festivals build a platform for authors who are self-published and those that work with publishing houses. Authors can share their work with people and sell their books while networking with other authors.

Black authors of all genres and ages share their stories and spotlight black characters

Author Jacob Grovey, one of the many authors at the festival, said he writes to speak for those who feel voiceless. The characters created within the writing of his books are stories for those without representation in other stories. 

“It’s very important that we’re able to continue with our stories,” Grovey said. “All [Black people] had was the tradition of passing along stories through word of mouth, and now we can pass our stories through books and digital forms.”

Grovey said he writes his stories for all kinds of audiences in a household: children’s books, collections of poetry and adult novels.

“I try my best to always showcase and spotlight leading characters of color because for too long, we haven’t had any,” Grovey said. “We have the stories, and we have a voice.”

Lorraine Zajac, another Black author at the festival, is a STEM educator who wrote “Logan’s 3D Printed Surprise,” a children’s book that follows a creative and imaginative 8-year-old boy uncovering a new skill and interest in 3D printing to make a surprise gift for a loved one. 

“I wanted to combine the love of technology as well as the love of literacy and combine those two for children, so they can be excited about a topic that is relevant for their future,” Zajac said.

Sixth grader and author Zariah Cherry was also invited to the event to represent African American children’s authors and debut her book “Lulu, the Lollipop Girl,” which is part of a new book series: “Lulu.” At age 6, Cherry was diagnosed with dyslexia but continued writing stories in collections of journals or stapled pieces of paper. Her stories are about other kids with dyslexia and the unique abilities they have because of it. 

“These books are my babies, and they inspired me to read more and make other books,” Cherry said. “I have this condition called dyslexia, where it’s difficult for me to write and read, so this is how I channel my dyslexia.”

The book festival was Clack’s first time attending the event, and he said he was impressed with the attendance of the authors and people.

“Anything that promotes reading, literacy, and writing and getting more kids and Black folk to read is great.”

For more information on the annual book festival visit:

About the Author

Johnathan Peña
Sports Editor
Johnathan “John” Pena is a sophomore majoring in communications and minoring in business administrations at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. John enjoys listening to an assorted genre of music, watching movies, playing video games and videoographing with his GoPro. After graduation, he hopes to pursue a career in advertising and media film.

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