OC Kids Book Fest Blue Ribbon Social Justice

U.S. Congresswoman Katie Porter as well as New York Times best selling authors Kwame Alexander and Jason Reynolds participated in this year's virtual OC Children's Book Festival. 

New York Times Bestselling author and Library of Congress’ national ambassador for young people’s literature, Jason Reynolds, alongside fellow New York Times Bestselling author, Kwame Alexander and Congresswoman Katie Porter were guests of the “Be the Change” Blue Ribbon Panel on Sept. 19 as part of the Orange County Virtual Children’s Book Festival. The segment, which was part of the two-week-long virtual event, addressed recent social issues.

“They had so much to say, especially with what’s going on,” said Orange Coast College children’s literature professor Chris Evans, who served as moderator. “We were having this conversation going on with a real outpouring of frustration over a lack of racial equity. And all three of them contributed so many insightful ways of how we could be better as a society, and also how children can integrate these concepts at a very early age as well.”

The “Be the Change” panel accompanied its Blue Ribbon sister panel, “Good Grief,” that addressed issues of anxiety and depression brought about by COVID-19 and social distancing. Both segments, while featuring beloved authors that children will know, were tailored to draw in parents. The panels were intended to open up doors for families to have important conversations that can be too easily mislabeled as too difficult for adults, and confusing for children.

“The children are ready to be inspired. They're built for that,” Alexander said during the event. “Are we, as the adults, going to give them the space? Are we going to provide opportunities for them to become the kinds of human beings who are going to make this world better, who are going to imagine this world better."

Topics discussed during the panel ranged from subjects taught in schools, such as history and literature that children are exposed to, as well as things that are often instilled in the home. 

“Children’s literature is one of the areas that I think has such an impact, it has the ability to alter,” Evans said.

The OC Children’s Book Festival will continue to release new content throughout the week with a final special event on Saturday. Visit their website to learn more, and register for free to enjoy the full offerings of the festival.

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