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'Believe Project' Literary Show Highlights Black Authors, Children's Books In St. Louis

Author Julius B. Anthony hosts "The Believe Project," a literacy-based children's show.
Lance Omar Thurman
Author Julius B. Anthony hosts "The Believe Project," a literacy-based children's show.

Nefarious. That’s how Julius B. Anthony describes the data surrounding Black children’s literature — there’s just not enough representation of books with Black characters or written by Black authors.

Anthony is the president of St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature, and spearheads the Believe Project, which consists of literacy labs throughout community centers, private schools and traditional public schools in the region. It provides kids consistent access to Black children's literature as a strategy for improving reading proficiency.

But the day-to-day operations of the program came to a screeching halt once the coronavirus pandemic closed schools and other gathering places. Anthony said he thought he’d have a couple of weeks to figure out a new strategy. What he got was a couple of days.

Board members and partners suggested live book readings, but Anthony felt the social media space was too saturated with that kind of content — and doing what everyone else does just isn’t in his nature. So he started working on producing a literacy-based children's TV show to elevate Black authors and Black children's literature, something he said has yet to happen regionally or nationally.

Throughout July and August, four pilot episodes will air on the Nine Network’s YouTube page and Missouri Historical Society’s website. The episodes include appearances by local authors, literacy vignettes of children reciting their favorite books or poems and creative learning activities for children associated with the featured books.

Anthony, who described it as the “the modern, hip-hop Mr. Rogers experience,” joined host Sarah Fenske on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air to talk about his ongoing efforts to help children fall in love with reading.

Episode 1

Episode 2

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.