Dino Scholars: Children of the African Diaspora Inspiring a Literary Renaissance

Dino Scholars

By Leyu Negussie

In a world where representation and inclusivity are at the forefront, the Dino Scholars, five dynamic young men from the African diaspora, are captivating children’s hearts and sparking a literary renaissance. Zayma, Addis, Lucas Samuel, Yaphie, and Lucas Selassie’s journey began by chance—their immigrant families’ shared location in the United States. They had no idea their childhood book club, The Dead Dinosaurs, would pave the way for a fruitful journey into adolescence. 

The Dino Scholars established a mentorship program to broaden their book club upon entering high school. They met bimonthly at a local bookstore. Beyond reading, the initiative gave young diaspora children a sense of belonging, solidarity, and pride. “Our book club brought us together regularly, which led us to be close like brothers,” Lucas Samuel stated during one of the meetings. “We want to create a space for others to do the same through storytelling.” 

The program transitioned to an online platform during the 2020 pandemic. They discussed how to diversify and add their voices to children’s literature as part of building the initiative. These conversations served as the inspiration for their anthology, Dino Boys’ Tales. “We want to empower children to see themselves as storytellers,” Addis explained during their book signing. “Our hope is for youth to engage in reading and writing,” added Yaphie. 

Youthful imagination fills the pages of Dino Boys’ Tale. Still, most importantly, as Lucas Selassie explained, “its existence on bookshelves alongside other books is a step forward in diversifying storytelling.” 

Following the publication of Dino Boys’ Tales, the young men traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to offer a reading, writing, and illustration workshop for primary students in the summer of 2023 at Zoma School. The pupils participated eagerly, immersing themselves in the stories and writing their own. Asked about the kids’ enthusiasm, Zayma replied, “Being only sixteen with no prior teaching experience initially made me feel nervous, but the respect and eagerness exhibited by the children made the workshop productive and fun.”

Dino Scholars

During the closing ceremony, Zoma School’s Director, Mr. Belay Hileyes, praised the Dino Scholars for illuminating leadership through literature. In addition, Meskerem Assegued, the founder of Zoma School, announced a virtual continuation of the workshop throughout the school year, emphasizing the importance of inclusive storytelling. 

Dino Boys’ Tales connects African diaspora youth with their contemporaries and empowers them to engage in storytelling. “When children read books written by youth with similar backgrounds and cultures, they gain self-determination and self-esteem,” a parent said at the Zoma School’s closing ceremony. “We are grateful that you came because your presence and participation as diaspora youth authors showed the children they have a place in storytelling.” 

Dino Scholars are more than storytellers; they are change agents. They aim to spark a literary renaissance in children’s books that encourages inclusiveness and diversity. They hope to motivate their generation to engage in and contribute to storytelling. More than an anthology, Dino Boys’ Tales is a reminder that representation matters and narrative diversity is crucial to creating a more inclusive world.

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