It’s about Celebrating Diversity with Valerie Bolling

Hi friends! Today I’m honored to talk with Valerie Bolling, the author of Let’s Dance, a wonderful book where children from all over the world dance, tap, twist and twirl! It is a rhythmic read filled with beautiful illustrations that is sure to delight young readers. (Mine definitely liked it!) I’m excited to learn more about Valerie today!

Hi Valerie! What was your first memory as a child where you connected to a book?

I don’t remember the first time I connected to a book. What I do remember is that I always loved books. I loved being read to; I loved reading; and I loved writing my own stories and poems, too. 

The books that were read to me as a young child – usually by my great-aunt, Lucille – were Frog and Toad, Curious George, Amelia Bedelia, Charlotte’s Web, James and the Giant Peach, and The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. As I got older, I began to read these books on my own as well as series, such as Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Betsy, Tacy, and Tib, Pippi Longstocking, and books by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume. None of these books are about Black children or written by Black authors. Fortunately, I still loved reading; however, some children could be turned off to reading if none of the characters look like them and/or if the voices and experiences of the characters are not like theirs. Malcolm Mitchell’s book, My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World, expresses this reality beautifully.

I think what you’ve said about representation is so important. All children should be able to see themselves in books. I’m grateful that your love for reading kept you invested, but understand that may not be the case for others. In a world where we are trying to encourage children to read, we as a community must make sure we are doing everything we can to foster this love. This means having diversity in books, in all genres, and with authors and illustrators.

In what ways do you hope your writing will impact the lives of children?

My life’s work as an educator, and now as an author, has always been about children. Every interaction I have with a child is precious. Every interaction is a chance to make a child experience joy and a sense of a community – and to feel special. My books allow me to facilitate these interactions.

I write because I want all children to feel at home in a book. I want them to smile, laugh, think, and question. Most of all, I want them to celebrate the diverse world we live in. My desire is for children of all backgrounds to see themselves in my stories and feel seen and heard, valued and validated.

“Feel seen and heard, valued and validated.” This statement is so powerful, Valerie! Children need to know they matter. By acknowledging them, it shows we are listening and appreciating them. This not only increases their self worth but also their self esteem. This increase will greatly impact their decisions, actions, and help them decide who they want to be. This is the power of supporting children and helping them believe in themselves! Honestly, I tear up about the beautiful scene and possibility of children finding their voice, their confidence, and seeing their immense worth.

Your hopes make my heart happy dance, Valerie, and I want to thank you for spending time with us today. Make sure to check out Let’s Dance! Thanks for joining us everyone and have a great day!

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