“It is stories that connect us,” said Nikki Grimes at the CCIRA conference on Thursday. Recent winner of the 2017 Laura Ingalls Wilder award, the popular author and poet shared her idea that writing about characters of different races, cultures, and backgrounds should be more commonplace in literature today. She said people need to “feel the heartbeats” of other races. The focus of her works is on the human story and that we are more alike than different. Grimes used poetic language such as referring to the common denominator of characters being the human heart.
During the conference, she read from many of her books, including “Garvey’s Choice” and “Planet Middle School”. Among her many poetry and children’s books, she also shared that she often wrote from her life experiences or from a conversation she overheard. She believes that it is alright to portray a character from a different race or culture as long as it is done accurately, authentically, and naturally. She stated that it was important to include a wide variety of cultures in the background of a story to reflect the world around us and to connect with all types of readers. She wants all children to feel like they are “part of the crew” and see themselves reflected in literature. Grimes reminded us that literature can change the way kids look at the people around them who are different from themselves. It can bring groups of people together. Grimes shared her insights as to who would like her work: “those who like to read and those who don’t”, “those who like poetry and those who think they don’t”, “kids who like to laugh, kids who like drama, all kinds of kids”.
After the conference, she shared that her ideas from books sometimes don’t come from anywhere but her own imagination. For now, she retreats to the “sweet kingdom of story”.