Childrens book author Derrick Barnes spoke to children at Center Elementary School. Photo by Christina McDonough Hunt
Kansas City-Born Author Inspires Children in South KC
By Christina McDonough Hunt
Surrounded by young minds and bright faces, Kansas City native and award-winning author Derrick Barnes stopped by Center Elementary, Boone Elementary and the Mid-Continent Public Library’s Red Bridge branch on October 8 to share his story and inspire children to “never give up on your dream.”
Barnes is traveling around the United States speaking to elementary school children in the hopes that he will inspire even just one child to believe that they can achieve their dreams no matter where they come from, what color of skin they have, or whether they are male or female.
“It’s imperative that I go to the schools,” said Barnes. “Children need to see, especially the black boys, that there are different careers out there. I didn’t see my first black male author until I was 23. I didn’t see kids that look like me on the cover of books. I hope that me coming to the school could really spark something in them.”
Barnes is also visiting schools to promote and read aloud his eight-time, award-winning picture book, “Crown: An Ode To The Fresh Cut.” His book is one of the most decorated picture books in the history of children’s literature. It has been honored with the John Newbery Medal, Caldecott Medal, two 2018 Ezra Jack Keats awards (one for New Writer and one for New Illustrator), 2018 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book, 2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, Society of Illustrators Gold Medal Book, and the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers.
Barnes’ love of reading began at the age of four, when he would walk with his mother and siblings to the library every Saturday morning, returning home with a wagon full of books. By the time he was six, he had converted his closet into his personal reading space. He used a shoestring to hang a flashlight for light, and pillows on the floor for comfort. It was in that closet that his love for words deepened.
“I just fell in love with words at a very young age,” Barnes said. “I would read everything I could get my hands on.”
His first work of fiction was in 5th grade when the teacher asked the class to write a short story. He wrote about a dog looking around the country for a magic ball.
“I gave the story to my best friend to read and he said, ‘Man, this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read in my life’,” laughed Barnes. “But everyone in my class laughed at the funny parts, and they thought the exciting parts were cool. I felt like I became a writer that day.”
Today Barnes is living his dream of being a writer. He has 10 published books and is currently working on more. He grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, and is a graduate of Jackson State University. He currently resides with his family in Charlotte, North Carolina.