The older we get, the less opportunities we get for first times, so “Genesis Begins Again” author Alicia D. Williams says she could hardly contain her excitement when she got the invite to make her debut at the 28th Annual African American Children’s Book Fair.

“It’s so exciting because it’s my first book and for it to be this well-received, well-received enough to get invited to an event like this. This book fair is by invitation only and that’s an even more wonderful feeling. As we see the roster, the names and the books that they have out, to have your book alongside award winners, people who have bestsellers, it’s just all too thrilling to think about it right now,” she says.

The African American Children’s Book Fair, taking place Feb. 1, 2020, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., at Community College of Philadelphia’s Athletic Center (17th and Spring Garden streets), is free and open to the public.

This is one of the oldest and largest single-day events for African-American children’s books in the country, with an average yearly attendance of more than 3,500, according to Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, who founded the event.

The event features nationally known bestselling authors/illustrators, many of whom have won some of the most prestigious American Library Association awards.

The book fair will be packed with activities that promote the power and joy of reading. Authors and illustrators will be on hand to sign their books as well as make presentations.

The Literary Row will distribute book-related promotional materials free of charge. The Educator’s Book Giveaway will also distribute brand new books to teachers for use in their classrooms and school libraries. In addition, there will be a wide selection of affordable literature available for purchase.

The African American Children’s Book Fair is a part of the African American Children’s Book Project’s initiative to promote and preserve multicultural children’s literature.

Williams says events like these are important because access and representation matters.

“I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. There’s not one Black-owned bookstore. We need these festivals and Black-owned bookstores because they cater to the community. They have readings there, they bring authors there whether you can buy a book or not. There’s reading time there. Having spaces like these plants that seed for kids to see a room full of Black authors and get a book signed by one person that looks like them,” Williams says.

jperry@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5749

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