Inspiring Youth Project: Anti-Bias Book Festival 


Happy Black History Month! While it’s important celebrate the achievements of Black trailblazers every month, observances like Black History Month remind us of the role that stories play in shaping our world to create a better, more just future. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If someone is around to hear it, but doesn’t record it, then how will current and future generations know that a tree once fell in this forest? By recording and sharing stories of different people from all different backgrounds, we can strengthen our knowledge and our empathy, and work towards equitable solutions, together.  

But first, those stories need to be told. This is why it is so important to start telling these stories to the next generation. This is the idea behind one Roots & Shoots project, 🔗 JustKids Book Festival, out of Chicago, IL! 

This Roots & Shoots group used the Roots & Shoots 🔗 4-Step formula to create a fun an engaging community event that highlighted BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and Disabled voices! They were Step 1: Inspired by the books that they had read, and the effect that reading a variety of stories had on them. However, they also Step 2: Observed that it was not always easy to find every perspective and identity represented on the bookshelves, especially when so many of the most popular books for kids are written from the perspective of less diverse characters that may not represent the incredible varieties of identities and experiences on Earth. This seemed strange, especially when they learn that—according to the 🔗 2020 census results—the children of Chicago are largely non-white, comprising nearly 81% of the city total. 

There was no literary event near them that focused on children and youth, so they decided to Step 3: Take Action by starting their own! This multicultural book festival brought together local authors and illustrators from all backgrounds—especially those in the BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and Disabled communities—who gave storytime readings, art-making classes, workshops for parents and educators, and more. The festival also hosted a book marketplace featuring a wide variety of children’s books written by local, independent authors, that are actively fighting bias in children’s books.  

The goal of this event was to offer kids and their families a chance to learn about and read books they might not see elsewhere, and support the creators of these books who are fighting an uphill battle to be heard. The lack of representation in children’s literature is a serious issue, since kids who don’t see themselves reflected in their books might have a harder time believing that they can be the hero of their story. However, by choosing to Step 4: Celebrate the anti-bias books that do exist and the people who make them possible through a fun and community-building event, this Roots & Shoots group showed that there is joy in even the most serious and change-making work! 


Once you’ve signed up as a member and come up with a project, be sure to register it on our website for a chance to be featured in a future project of the month! Not a Roots & Shoots member yet? You’re only a few clicks away! 

Become a Member and Register your Project 

Not sure how to start a project? Use our 🔗 4-Step Formula to find ways to make an impact in YOUR community! Remember to invite your friends to help out, because even when we take small actions, they’re multiplied by collaboration. You can even create a Roots & Shoots group at your school or join one already in your area! 

Create or Join a Group 

Looking for a simple way to help out? Take our 1-Click Actions to grow empathy and work towards a more equitable world! 

🔗 Hear Many Sides: Watch this TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to hear how stories from different perspectives affects our view of the world. 

🔗 What is Systemic Racism?: Learn how the social systems around us often work against people of color, and what you can do about it. 

🔗 Compassionate Traits Quiz: Unlock the power of compassion with this fun personality quiz that reveals your strengths as a changemaker! 

About Author

Kira is the communications coordinator for JGI programs at the Jane Goodall Institute USA, where she supports the team in advancing public engagement with JGI's holistic programs. Kira graduated from Smith College in 2021, majoring in anthropology and minoring in art history, and during her time there she developed a deep interest in the field of anthrozoology. Her interests within this field are broad, and have led her to study elephant iconography in the U.S. and wildlife management in Tanzania. JGI's values and mission as well as the mindset of anthrozoology guide her work, exploring the interactions between humans and other animals in order to promote a healthier coexistence on this shared planet.