Written by Renee Tecco, Senior Library Services Assistant, Downtown Main Library On Saturday, February 15, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is hosting its third annual African American Read-In (AARI) from 12-4 p.m. at the Downtown Main Library. Acclaimed local author Sharon Draper and children’s book illustrator R. Gregory Christie are featured guests along with other local writers to help promote reading books by African Americans authors. There are various programs, including crafts like button-making, a photo booth, and a special storytime for children performed by 2005 Librarian of the Year Arnice Smith. The event includes a workshop hosted by Draper and Christie followed by a book signing shortly afterward. For easy browsing, check out the display of African American books in the first-floor atrium. There also are books displayed in the Youth Services Department. The AARI was started in 1990 by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English with the goal to make literacy a focus of Black History Month. Since then libraries, schools, churches, bookstores, and others have been hosting read-ins for African American History Month across the country. Our Library’s AARI began in February 2018 when Tween Librarian Sam Bloom decided to bring the event to the Blue Ash branch. “I heard about it from a friend who had done it in New Mexico and she raved about what a great program it was,” said Bloom. With only Library staff member Sierra McKenzie to plan and execute, the AARI had a modest beginning. There were carts of African American books in the branch; the highlight of the event was a skype visit from children’s author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. 2019 Caldecott committee member Alia Jones and children's book author Derrick Barnes The following year the event expanded, moving to the Downtown Main Library. Cincinnati Herald Publisher Jan-Michele Kearney kicked off the event with a reading from her favorite children’s book, and award-winning children’s writer Derrick Barnes was the keynote speaker. Bloom hopes that the annual festival continues to grow and become a tradition for many families during African American History Month. “I hope we can reach a wider audience this year,” said Bloom. Children's book author Derrick Barnes giving his Keynote address in 2019. For more information about the AARI or other programs for African American History Month visit our website at CincinnatiLibrary.org or call us at 513 369-6900.