A speaker, writer, and worship leader, Dorena Williamson knows the power and beauty of racial awareness. Her children’s book ColorFull (B&H Kids) asks young readers, “Why be colorblind when we can be colorFULL instead?” In this interview, the author shares the inspiration behind ColorFull, how she puts herself in the minds of young readers, and how her ministry experiences influenced the book.
Dorena, what inspired the book ColorFull?
My upbringing was graced with interracial friendships, and my parents modeled that as well. As an adult, years of experiencing the joy of a multiracial church began to stir up thoughts of how we could teach a better narrative to our kids than the “colorblind” rhetoric many default to when the topic of racial identity comes up.
So I began to create a story that would use friendship and wisdom, personified by a loving grandmother, to teach about God’s handiwork in all of creation. Parents diligently teach young children to observe the colors around them, so I felt that was a great lead in to introduce the topic of our racial identity and how that too is a wonderful work of God.
Is this book intended for young readers or parents reading with their children?
Both! I sincerely hope ColorFull is enjoyed by young readers, parents, AND grandparents, aunties, and teachers who read it to children. I believe the message is extremely relevant for adults as well as children.
What was the process of working with your illustrators? How do their illustrations enhance the reading experience?
I was able to select the illustrators for ColorFull, and I am so pleased with how Cornelius and Ying-Hwa interpreted the story. The watercolor images are full of whimsy, wonder, and joy. I was especially passionate about showing diversity of skin color, and that has resonated with many readers.
The illustrations will linger in the minds of young children as much as the words, so I’m thankful that children of all colors can see familiar things as well as a mirror of someone who looks like them, in ColorFull!
How do you put yourself in the right mindset to write for young minds?
My role as a mother cultivated a passion for planting seeds in children’s minds through stories. I was a child who loved to get lost in a story, and I still love to whenever I find the time! Keeping children’s books in my home library allowed me to gain inspiration from authors whose work influenced my children.
I enjoyed the young years of reading to my kids and volunteer reading in their schools; those memories have also been reinforcement. These days I’m often browsing children’s departments to keep a sense of wonder and joy about what is being produced for children, and prayer keeps me focused on what I am called to write.
You are the First Lady of Strong Tower Bible Church in Tennessee. How did your experiences in the ministry influence how you approached writing ColorFull?
Strong Tower truly was the source of inspiration for the series. It is a joy to have a taste of heaven as I see families of varying shades every Sunday! During my 22 years as a First Lady, I have had countless conversations with families about the pain of kids wanting to be a different color and unfortunately experiencing the shame of racism from other kids and adults.
While our church is a safe and celebratory place for families of color, I longed for an opportunity spread the reality we get to experience in God’s diverse kingdom. I am encouraged by Jesus’ constant teaching about coming to the kingdom as a child.
This is why I love to interact with our kiddos at church. Their open hearts and simple faith is inspiring to me!
Visit Dorena Williamson’s author profile:
ColorFull: Celebrating the Colors God Gave Us
Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu