35th Virginia Hamilton Conference

Virginia Hamilton Conference

April 28, 2023

Kent State University

Conference location: the Kent State University Design Innovation Hub 400 Janik Dr, Kent, OH 44243 



35th Virginia Hamilton Conference Schedule

35th Virginia Hamilton Conference Schedule

2023 Featured Speakers

The Emmy-Award Winning Creators, Writer, Director and Producers of Reading Rainbow

Larry & Cecily Lancit

Creators and Producers of Reading Rainbow, Larry and Cecily Lancit

Larry & Cecily Lancit are not only partners in marriage, life, and the television industry, they are also the dynamic duo who co-created and produced the PBS series Reading Rainbow, an EMMY AWARD winning American educational children's television series that encouraged children to check out books from their local library and read. Reading Rainbow originally aired on PBS and afterwards on PBS Kids and PBS Kids Go! from July 11, 1983 to Nov. 10, 2006, with reruns continuing to air until Aug. 28, 2009. During this time, it was the most used program in American elementary schools. In its 21-seasons, Reading Rainbow won 16 National Daytime Emmy Awards, including seven Emmys for Best Children’s Series. Anyone not familiar with Reading Rainbow just needs to watch one episode of the popular children’s television show to understand the impact it had on libraries and their surrounding communities. Nowadays, the husband and wife team operate Paradise Coast TV, an independent television production company based in Naples, Florida and the Paradise Coast TV Visitor Channel. They have recently completed a documentary, Blues on Beale, highlighting the 36th Annual International Blues Competition in Memphis, and they are now moving their focus to work to support mental health and recovery institutions, pulling back the curtain to help resolve stigma from drug addiction and mental/emotional disorders. Both Larry and Cecily are also lead personalities in the feature documentary, Butterfly in the Sky, a chronicle of the history and impact of Reading Rainbow over its 23-year presence on PBS. The documentary recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.


Award-Winning Illustrator

April W Harrison

April Harrison

"I have dreamed of becoming an illustrator since I began my artistic journey in 1997.

I thought it would be wonderful to see faces like mine on everything from books to bedspreads and everything in between!

But no matter how many times I submitted my portfolio to the different publishing houses, I was turned down. I decided that God had other plans for me so I placed “illustration” on the back burner and concentrated on my fine art career. In 2016, I was approached by Schwartz and Wade, an imprint of Penguin Random House about possibly illustrating a children’s picture book. I jumped at the opportunity ! But wait a minute, there was a catch! In order to be selected for this opportunity, I had to do one fully executed page of the book so that they could determine if it was the right “feel” Let’s just say the rest is history, I got the job and my first illustrated book, ”What Is Given From The Heart” by Patricia McKissack went on to win the 2020 Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe Award for New Illustrator . I have learned from this experience that “delay” does not mean “denial” it’s all about God’s timing for your life and I feel that He saved the best for last."

April Harrison's Website


WHAT IS GIVEN FROM THE HEART: Patricia McKissack-2019 Publisher-Schwartz & Wade books/Penguin Random House, NY **2020 CORETTA SCOTT KING-JOHN STEPTOE AWARD WINNER FOR NEW ILLUSTRATOR

NANA AKUA GOES TO SCHOOL: Tricia Elam Walker-2020 Publisher-Schwartz & Wade Books/Penguin Random House, NY **2021 CHILDREN’S AFRICANA BOOK AWARD WINNER - CABA

SHIRLEY CHISHOLM DARED: Alicia D. Williams-2021 Publisher- Anne Schwartz Books/Penguin Random House , NY **2022 JANE ADDAMS CHILDREN’S BOOK AWARD WINNER

THE TALK- Conversations about Race, Love & Truth: “TEN”- Tracey Baptiste 2020 Publisher-Just Us Books/Crown Books for Young Readers, NY

LEGACY: Women poets of the Harlem Renaissance: “A MOTHER’S LAMENT”-Nikki Grimes-2019 Publisher-Bloomsbury, NY

H IS FOR HARLEM: Dinah Johnson -2022 Publisher-Little Brown, NY

ME AND THE BOSS: Michelle Edwards-2022 Publisher-Anne Schwartz Books/Penguin Random House, NY

AUGUSTA BAKER: Breanna MCDaniel- 2023 Publisher- Penguin Random House, NY


Award-Winning Author and Poet

Jaime Adoff

Jaime Adoff

Jaime Adoff is an award-winning author of young adult novels and children’s poetry.

After being an English/Language Arts teacher for the last ten years, Jaime has roared back onto the writing scene. He will have two new picture books published in 2024. VIOLET AND THE FROST KING, a collaboration with his late mother Virginia Hamilton, and illustrated by April Harrison, and ROCK N ROLL DAD, Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Both books will be published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Little,Brown. Jaime is represented by Sera Rivers of Speilburg Literary.

Jaime Adoff's Website

Past Publications

The original poetry collection, The Song Shoots Out of My Mouth: A Celebration of Music, was named a Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book for 2003, an IRA Notable Book for 2003, A NY Public Library Book for the Teen Age for 2003, a VOYA poetry pick for 2002, and a CCB Best Book for 2002. The critically acclaimed Names Will Never Hurt Me was Jaime’s first young-adult novel which was named a NY Public Library Book for the Teen Age for 2005 and was also nominated as a Best Book for Young Adults. Jimi & Me was the recipient of the 2006 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award. It was also named as a 2006 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, A 2006 NY Public Library Book for the Teen Age and was selected for the Voya Top Shelf Fiction List. Jaime's most recent young adult novel The Death of Jayson Porter received the 2010 Buckeye Teen Book Award. It received *Starred Reviews from *Booklist*, *Library Media Connection*, and *VOYA* magazine, (5Q). It was also selected for the 2009 "Choose to Read Ohio” program, a project of the State Library of Ohio, to promote reading across Ohio. Additionally, The Death of Jayson Porter was named an Ohioana Book Award finalist in the Juvenile category. His first picture book Small Fry was cited as "Cathartic and Encouraging Fun" by Kirkus Review.

Jaime Adoff is the son of the late Newbery Award-winning author Virginia Hamilton and the late renowned poet Arnold Adoff.


Award-Winning Author

Nisi Shawl

Nisi Shawl

Nisi Shawl is a multiple-award-winning writer and editor. Their novel Everfair was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the short story collection Filter House won the James Tiptree Jr. Award. In 1997, they cofounded the Carl Brandon Society to help give people of color greater visibility in the science fiction and fantasy worlds, and their "Writing the Other" workshops and accompanying book (co-created with Cynthia Ward) have taught thousands of writers new ways of thinking about diversity and representation within fiction.

Nisi received the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2019. Born near Kalamazoo, Michigan, Nisi now lives near Seattle.

Speculation is their first novel for young readers (cover below).


Find them online at nisishawl.com and on Twitter at @nisishawl.


Lee and Low Publishers

Jason Low from Lee & Low Books

Jason Low

Jason Low is publisher/co-owner of Lee & Low Books, the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the United States. Founded in 1991, Lee & Low celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2021. Lee & Low is part of Foreword Magazine’s esteemed list of Indie Publishers of the Year and the recipient of an Angel Award from The Eric Carle Museum for its dedication to diverse books and BIPOC artists and authors. Lee & Low is also the originator of the Diversity Baseline Survey (DBS), which measures inclusivity behind the scenes in publishing. DBS has become the largest data sampling of its kind within the industry and acts as both a catalyst for change and an accountability tool to push for more equity.

Lee and Low Website

Co-Founder of the Virginia Hamilton Conference & Award-Winning Author Tony L. Manna

Anthony Manna

Anthony L. Manna’s first collaboration with Soula Mitakidou, Mr. Semolina-Semolinus: A Greek Folktale, illustrated by Giselle Potter, was an ALA-ALSC Notable Book, a Marion Vannett Ridgway Award winner, and a New York Public Library Best Book for Children. Another collaboration of theirs, The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece, illustrated by Giselle Potter, was a Bank Street College of Education Best Book of 2012. They also collaborated on Folktales from Greece: A Treasury of Delights. Loukas and the Game of Chance, Anthony’s fantasy for readers 8 & up, illustrated by Donald Babisch, was selected a 2019 Book Excellence Award Finalist, an eLit Awards Gold Medal, and a Maincrest Media Award. Anthony is the recipient of Kent State University’s Distinguished Teaching Award, Kent State’s Students’ Choice Award, and the International Literacy Association’s Arbuthnot Award for Outstanding University Teaching.

Award-Winning Artist Donald Babisch


Donald Babisch

Donald Babisch is an artist and art educator who has worked with children in elementary and middle school. An alumnus of New York University’s graduate art education program, he is a former adjunct instructor in the art education program at Youngstown State University in Ohio. The author of articles in several art education journals, Donald is both the author and illustrator of Who is That Peeking in My Windows? and the illustrator of Loukas and the Game of Chance. Having received an Honorable Mention for a felted piece he exhibited at the Crooked Tree Arts Center in 2014, he is now exploring and creating large needle felted portraits, scenes, and allegories. An avid gardener, he lives in a log cabin in northeast Ohio.

Virginia Hamilton Conference





Kent State University

To Inquire About Future Conferences,

Please Contact Chair,
Mary Anne Nichols mnichol1@kent.edu