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The African American Children’s Book Fair, one of the oldest and largest literary events dedicated to Black literature and creators, is back at the Pennsylvania Convention Center this year.
The free event has grown in popularity since its launch 32 years ago, which Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, its founder, said is a testament to what the Philadelphia community needs and wants.
“A book opens up a world of possibilities. A book gives you the opportunity to see the world beyond you,” Lloyd-Sgambati said.
Founder of the African American Children’s Book Fair Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati said this event fills a need for the community. (Vicky Diaz-Camacho/WHYY News)
She said that access to books — whatever their contents — gives children permission to dream, dare and discover, and builds confidence. Lloyd-Sgambati used her own life as an example.
Before traveling to Moscow, she pored over books that described important sites and landmarks. She recalled the freedom of recognizing in real life what she had seen only on the pages.
Freedom is more important these days.
Book bans have become increasingly common in recent years. There were approximately 644 instances of book bans in Pennsylvania from July 2021 to July 2023, according to Pen America.
“In this age of banned books, you can’t ban a book if you buy a book,” Lloyd-Sgambati said in response.
She added that this book fair affords families the chance to see themselves represented. The core mission is to give attendees not only an opportunity to see work by Black authors and creators but also to give them a chance to meet these talented individuals in person.