By Leyu Negussie
In a world where representation and inclusiveness are at the forefront, the Dino Scholars, five dynamic young men from the African diaspora, are captivating the hearts of children and sparking a literary renaissance. The journey of Zayma, Addis, Lucas Samuel, Yaphie and Lucas Selassie began by chance: the shared residence of their immigrant families in the United States. Little did they know that their childhood book club, The Dead Dinosaurs, would pave the way for a fruitful journey into adolescence.
The Dino Scholars established a mentoring program to expand their book club upon entering high school. They met every two months at a local bookstore. Beyond reading, the initiative gave young children in the diaspora a sense of belonging, solidarity and pride. “Our book club brought us together regularly, which led us to be close like brothers,” Lucas Samuel said during one of the meetings. “We want to create a space for others to do the same through storytelling. »
The program moved to a online platform during the pandemic of 2020. They discussed how to diversify and add their voices to children’s literature as part of building the initiative. These conversations inspired their anthology, Dino Boys’ Tales. “We want to allow children to see themselves as storytellers,” Addis explained during their book signing. “Our hope is that young people engage in reading and writing,” Yaphie added.
Youthful imagination fills the pages of Dino Boys’ Tale. But above all, as Lucas Selassie explains, “its existence on library shelves alongside other books is a step forward in the diversification of storytelling”.
Following the publication of Dino Boys’ Tales, the young men traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to offer a reading, writing and illustration workshop to primary school students in the summer of 2023 at Zoma School. Students participated enthusiastically, immersing themselves in the stories and writing their own. When asked about the children’s enthusiasm, Zayma said: “At first, being only sixteen years old and having no teaching experience made me nervous, but the respect and eagerness shown by the children made me the productive and fun workshop.
During the closing ceremony, the Principal of Zoma School, Mr. Belay Hileyes, commended the Dino Scholars for illuminating their leadership through literature. Furthermore, Meskerem Assegued, the founder of Zoma School, announced the virtual continuation of the workshop throughout the school year, emphasizing the importance of inclusive storytelling.
Dino Boys’ Tales connects young people from the African diaspora with their contemporaries and allows them to engage in storytelling. “When children read books written by young people from similar backgrounds and cultures, they gain self-determination and self-esteem,” a parent said at the closing ceremony of Zoma School. “We are grateful that you came because your presence and participation as children’s authors from the diaspora showed children that they have a place in storytelling. »
Dino Scholars are more than storytellers; they are agents of change. They aim to spark a literary renaissance in children’s books that encourages inclusion and diversity. They hope to motivate their generation to engage and contribute to the narrative. More than an anthology, Dino Boys’ Tales reminds us that representation matters and that narrative diversity is crucial to creating a more inclusive world.