Thirty second annual Virginia Hamilton conference returns to Kent

Jillian Holness

The 32nd Annual Virginia Hamilton Conference will take place this Thursday and Friday in the Kiva and on the third floor of the University Library to honor Virginia Hamilton, an African-American children’s book author and Ohio native, who died in 2002.

“This is the longest-running event in the United States to focus exclusively on multicultural literature for children and young adults,” said Belinda Boon, a board member of the conference and assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Science.

Boon explained that the conference takes place every April to keep cultural awareness alive.

“The conference reflects a commitment to promoting cultural awareness and affirming cultural pride while addressing the array of issues which surround the concept of culture and is held each April at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio,” Boon said.

Keynote speakers for the event include Nikki Grimes, author and winner of the 2016 Virginia Hamilton Award Literary Award, Christian Robinson, an illustrator and animator and Margarita Engle, a poet and novelist who was the recipient of the first Newbery Honor ever awarded to a Latino.

“Most of my verse novels are about Cuban history, but I will also be speaking about my verse memoir ‘Enchanted Air,’ which is about my childhood travels between my mother’s homeland of Cuba and my father’s homeland (of) Los Angeles,“ Engle said.

Nearly 200 writers, illustrators, librarians, teachers, students and scholars will gather for the event.

“The Virginia Hamilton Conference is one of the best in the country, and it’s held right here at Kent State,” Boon said.

The conference begins Thursday with a dinner and introduction to the authors/illustrators along, a brief author’s panel and a performance. Friday’s events will include keynote presentations by the authors/illustrators, workshop presentations by professionals educators and librarians, as well as the awarding of the Creative Outreach Grant, Essay Award and the Literary Award.

This year’s conference will include at least a dozen one-hour workshops on Friday. Topics will include girl power: exploring picture book biographers with strong female subjects, exploring social class and immigration in multicultural children’s literature, stories for the bilingual classroom, a petri dish of picture books: women in science, diverse verse: bridging language through poetry and passport to the world: fun ways to present multicultural programming.

The conference is sponsored by the School of Library Science, the College of Education Health and Human Services and through the Office of Continuing and Distance Education.

“Every year attendees are energized and inspired by the authors, illustrators and conference programs,” Boon said. “We’d love for everyone to have this experience.”

Student registration is $25 for the Thursday event (including dinner), $65 for the Friday event and $75 for the whole conference.

Registration forms are available on the conference website at

Jillian Holness is the humanities reporter for The Kent Stater, contact her at [email protected].