New Kids Book Fest coming to Brampton
In 2016, a literary festival like no other started in Brampton. Called the FOLD — short for the Festival of Literary Diversity — it was created to bring together writers and readers representing the panoply of voices from across this country. It takes place every May. Now, the group that founded the FOLD has announced the launch of the Kids Book Fest, to take place in September, as well as a track for teen writers. We spoke to the driving force behind the celebrations, FOLD artistic director Jael Richardson, about what she hopes the festival will accomplish.
What can you tell us about the new festival?
What you’ll see at the FOLD Kids Book Fest is kids’ lit (for ages) zero to 12. It’s really about committing to providing comprehensive kid-lit content.
We have a team of volunteers that are really pouring in their expertise, particularly Nadia Hohn (the teacher and award-winning author of books including ) who has such a wealth of experience in this area. She’s very entrenched in the kid-lit community both on this side of the border and (the U.S.). So we’ll really rely on her insight and wisdom.
Who’s the audience for this? Parents? Educators? Kids?
Adults are such an important part to kids’ content. We really wanted to create a space that was specifically for that experience: attending events with your children, bringing them and exposing them to great books. And it’s very difficult to do when you’re also doing a festival that’s all about adults and what they should be reading. This allows us to really focus on the kids and the parents and educators who take care of them. There’ll be a book fair of some sort, selling books, allowing people to find books (from) different providers that they might not otherwise have access to books in places like Brampton, where all we have is Chapters.
Why did you decide this was necessary?
Our two main events were what we call our Culture Days launch the last week in September and the FOLD in May. We were always trying to have a little bit of adult content and a little bit of kid content.
This year, we noticed really clearly that when you have an adult space that you invite kids into, it’s not as effective as having a space that’s all about them, where the colours, the seating arrangement, everything is geared toward them. And there’s a real sense that the kids didn’t feel as welcome, that this space wasn’t as ready for them to be there as it should be and so we wanted to be able to focus.
For us it was just about making a clear line so we can focus more successfully on kids-lit content on one side of the year and more adult content on the other.
You’re getting kids used to getting out and about and used to attending events about books.
We’re announcing on Monday our teen track, so we’ve actually built in more focused content for young adults at the FOLD, because the goal is that through all of the programming we provide, we’re covering every age level. From zero all the way up.
Recently the YA author Zetta Elliott wrote a piece for us, talking about the lack of representation of Black children, in particular, in kids lit. What do you think needs to be done?
I always say from my own experience I didn’t really know I could be a writer until I was in my 20s. I could picture actors, I could picture athletes, I could picture being a teacher. All those things very entrenched in my possibilities, but I didn’t even think about it. And the first time I met a Black author I knew right away it was something I wanted to do.
So for me it’s always about making sure that experience comes early, as early as possible in life. Making sure people meet as many writers of different backgrounds; so it’s not even “I have to see someone that looks like me” but even seeing more variety in the people I was meeting or reading, more brown writers, more Asian writers, then I would have thought “Oh, well, if they can do it so can I.” But I was only reading white voices and white characters.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Deborah Dundas is the Star's Books editor. She is based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: debdundas