Fresno children's book author hopes to spark conversations about race with new book

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Books can provide a window into the world around you and a mirror for children to understand themselves.

In recent years, parents and kids have seen more books depicting diverse backgrounds and experiences.

William Hardaway is a new children's book author based in Fresno and is hoping to spark conversations about race in his book, Who is Santa Claus.

For more than a decade, William Hardaway provided diversity, equity, and inclusion training at Fresno State.

"Most of our workshops are for folks that are in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and up," said Hardaway. "They will often tell me that this was our first time having a conversation about diversity and bias and stereotypes, and I thought, that's way too late!"

That's what inspired him to write his first children's book, which explores the public outcry when Santa retires and is rumored to have named a successor who looks different.

"When I initially told my daughters this story, and when I made up other stories for them, I always kept that as a theme," he said. "I want you to understand society, behavior, and everything at an early age."

During the pandemic, Hardaway read the illustrated book to his 11-year-old daughter's classroom on Zoom.

"They immediately understood the context of the book," he said. "They immediately recognized the diversity. One of my daughter's classmates shared, 'Why is it that Santa can't be a woman or can't be different? I've never thought about it, but I feel like Santa can be anybody.'"

Growing up, it was difficult for Hardaway to find a reflection of himself in the books he read, but he hopes "Who is Santa Claus" will be part of that change.

Who is Santa Claus will be released in November, just in time for the holidays, but it's available for pre-order now.
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