Interview w/ Vaness Lloyd-Sgambati

What was your childhood experience with books? How did your interest in children’s literature grow?

As a child growing up in Elmwood, a section of Philadelphia, PA, we didn’t have a library or a bookstore. However, every week the city would send a bookmobile to my community. I looked forward to this experience because even as a child I understood that a book opened up a world of opportunities. I didn’t pick out the usual books of my peers (fiction), but sought out those that told stories about cities beyond my horizon.

I remembered taking out a photo/text book on Moscow, Russia. The kids in my community made fun of my choice. My dad who was a voracious reader said, “Never mind, keep reading.” A few years ago, I was in Moscow in Red Square and knew every inch of that historical land marker. I knew it not because it was taught to me in school, but I had read a book.

Why did you start your African-American Children’s Book Festival?

As a publicist for adult books, I saw heavy traffic of authors visiting my community, but the children’s publishing industry seemed to have forgotten Philadelphia. I was working on a project for a local department store and they requested a black history event. So I started calling around and Marie Brown, a well-known literary agent, was very helpful in guiding me in those early years to find authors/illustrators who would be willing to make the trip to Philadelphia. When I started the festival, my family was my rock.  They supported my core volunteer outlet and made sure these ran smoothly

Please tell us about your African American Children’s Book Project.

The African American Children’s Book Project serves to promote and preserve African American children’s literature. My long-range goal is to have a children’s book museum. But for now, I’m just happy to use the skills that I have crafted to lead a number of best-selling adult authors to promote children’s literature. The book project develops book tours, creates promotional events, serves as consultant to publishers/authors and corporate entities who are interested in literacy.

How has your festival grown?

The Book Fair started out on a cold frosty day at John Wanamaker Department Store with 250 attendees. Last year over 4,000 people attended the event at Community College of Philadelphia. The book fair is one of the nation’s oldest and largest single day events for African American children’s books.

[Read more…]


[Exerpt courtesy of brownbookshelf – read the full length version available on their website]


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