Children's books author Sherrita Berry-Petus reads to children attending the Magical-Mirrors book fair at Sankofa Video Books & Cafe in Northwest on Sunday, Dec. 11.
Children's books author Sherrita Berry-Petus reads to children attending the Magical-Mirrors book fair at Sankofa Video Books & Cafe in Northwest on Sunday, Dec. 11. (Roy Lewis)

Disinterested in the usual seasonal Santa hats, ornate candies and festive holiday presents, one local community bookstore has decided to give the gift of literature and education as holiday presents to neighborhood children.

Celebrating their sixth annual “Magical-Mirrors” book fair event, which ran from Dec. 10-11 at Sankofa Video Books & Cafe on Georgia Avenue in Northwest, the store owners invited children all across D.C. to participate in energetic storytelling sessions, face painting and tasty treats, at no cost to the community.

As more than 20 children gathered around the shop to hear two local black authors read creative stories, store owner Shirikiana Gerima reiterated why programs such as these are so important to the youth.

“Many of life’s problems can be resolved before they even start, by merely getting out and getting our children to read early,” Gerima said. “In reality, our kids actually love to read and it’s easier for them when they can look at things that they themselves relate to.

“Here at Sankofa and at our book fair in particular, we have so much black literature for kids that touches on all aspects of their lives,” Gerima said.

Sherrita Berry-Petus, the first author at the “Magical-Mirrors” event, who eagerly read “Rock on With Your Afro Puffs!” and “Smile Bright Chocolate Prince,” which focused on affirming Black love. The second author, Monica Fortune, shared her book, “Whose Birthday Is It?,” which centers on recognizing the savior during Christmas.

Both received standing ovations from the children and the parents.

“My 6-year-old daughter is at a point now where she is starting to read on her own and I like that this event cultivates that,” said D.C. resident Ron Pendergrass. “These kind of events allow kids a chance to be themselves and it’s educational.”

The store is named after the internationally acclaimed film “Sankofa,” which was produced by bookstore owners Haile and Shirikiana Gerima and focuses on returning to ancestral African roots. The store has been a staple for Afrocentric book lovers for almost 20 years.

“This was the first bookstore that said to carrying my book inside of their store,” Berry-Petus said. “So I felt obligated to come and show love to their event, because they showed me love first.”

Lauren M. Poteat

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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