Award-winning children’s author speaks to Katy ISD students after critical race theory controversy

KATY ISD offered the parents the option to opt out of the virtual visit

KATY – After canceling a virtual visit by an award-winning children’s author earlier this month, Katy ISD went forward with the appearance Monday.

“It was wonderful,” said writer and illustrator Jerry Craft, in an exclusive interview with KPRC2′s Syan Rhodes after the event.

Craft was originally scheduled to speak to 4th and 5th graders in Katy ISD on October 4, but the district canceled the event after a petition from parents claimed the books promoted critical race theory.

RELATED: Katy ISD pulls books, cancels author’s visit after parents petition claiming subject matter teaches ‘critical race theory’

“First, I had to do what everyone else did, I had to Google it to see what it was, but I actually felt bad for the kids,” Craft said of learning his novels had become embroiled in the debate over critical race theory.

The district pulled Craft’s books, New Kid and Class Act, from library shelves after a parent filed a complaint.

“I was surprised. I was sad to know that some of the kids would not be able to see my presentation and get a chance to read my book,” the Newbery Award winner said.

The district said they reviewed the content, deemed it appropriate, and subsequently rescheduled Craft’s virtual visit.

SEE MORE: Banned books back on shelves in Katy ISD after parents claimed author was teaching ‘critical race theory’

Parents were given the opportunity to opt their kids out of participating.

Craft said his books are all about empathy.

“To see things from someone else’s perspective and point of view. It’s just a matter of acceptance. I have all different kinds of characters from all over all different ethnicities, and because kids really need to be seen, and that’s, that’s what my goal is,” Craft said. As for the parents who were opposed to his visit: “I think a lot of them just haven’t given it the chance. I think if they let their kids read it and talk to their kids, and see their kids light up and read it and reread it and start some actual helpful conversations, I think that a lot of this would have been avoided in the first place,” he said.

Kindred Stories, a Black-owned bookstore in Houston’s Third Ward, started a GoFundMe account to raise funds to buy 200 copies of the New Kid and Class Act to distribute to teachers and librarians in Texas.

“That’s absolutely amazing. That just goes to show people who realize the importance of reading and the importance of kids being seen, you know, it’s a much louder voice, and that’s the voice that is needed today. So I appreciate everyone who contributed,” Craft said.

About the Author:

Emmy-winning journalist, native Houstonian, reader, dancer, yogi.