|My son and Kadir Nelson|
As a child I have fond memories of visiting used bookstores for hours with my mother. She would head to the adult non-fiction section and I would get lost in the children's section. For hours. As an adult I realize how special those trips were for me because they gave me a passion for reading. As a parent that is something I want to pass on to my son. I'm proud to say that at 6 years old he reads chapter books with ease. [/end bragging].
It is in children's books that my son has learned about himself and the world. He loves to look at pictures that help bring the words to life. As his mom, I have made it my mission to find books where the characters look like him. Young. Black. Male. Of course this is not the only types of books he reads. However, I think it's important that children see themselves in all areas of life. To know that somewhere their story is being told and validated.
So I was ecstatic when I learned that our local library was hosting award-winning illustrator and author, Kadir Nelson. If you aren't familiar with his name, you know his work. He's created art for Coca-Cola, the U.S. Postal Service, and Dreamworks. He even designed the cover of Michael Jackson's posthumous "Michael" album. And he has illustrated over 30 children's books. What I love about his work is that it showcases the beauty and diversity of the African American experience. They tell a story.
During his lecture, Kadir shared his story of drawing from a young age. He talked about how his mother made sure he had pads of paper, pencils and crayons to nurture his talent. She knew that it wasn't something he was just playing around with or a passing hobby.
My son also loves to draw. So much that it upsets him when something he's working on doesn't turn out as he imagined in his head. Like Kadir's mom, I make sure my son has all of the supplies he needs for his next masterpiece. I also store them for him and display them around our home. As we sat listening to Kadir's story, I silently prayed that it would click for him. That he would hear a story of not giving up. And while Kadir's earlier works weren't "perfect", he didn't stop.
At the end of the night, Kadir autographed our books and graciously allowed me to snap this photo. I know that at that moment, my son doesn't really understand who Kadir is. Or what he means for children's literature or Art. I silently pray that he will draw (literally and figuratively) inspiration from this experience in the years to come.