Mentor & Program Committee Member: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow is a Philadelphia-based educator and award-winning children’s book author. A curriculum writer and former English teacher, she has educated children and teens in traditional and alternative learning settings for over 15 years. As an inaugural fellow with the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC), she developed foundational curricular frameworks for anti-racist programming. Her picture books and middle-grade fiction center young Black Muslim protagonists and have been recognized as the best in children’s literature by Time Magazine, Read Across America, and NPR. Her books include Mommy’s Khimar, stories in Once Upon an Eid, and Your Name is a Song, an Irma Black Award Honor book. Her soon-to-be-released books include Abdul’s Story, Hold Them Close, and Salat in Secret.
“My own experience with online Muslim writing groups teaches me that members are eager to provide real resources and mentorship to up-and-coming writers. Highlights Foundation is respected industry-wide as a trusted site for growing kidlit writers, so this is a great venue to serve that need. My own experiences with Highlights have been that the curricula are high quality and the programs are structured to be both challenging and supportive.”
“My work as an educator in my community also pulls me to this work. While a fellow with MuslimARC (Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative), I led training and created curriculum for the use of Muslim adults and children to empower them to address Islamophobia and intra-Muslim racism. Additionally, I’ve been an English teacher and community writing teacher for 15 years. In my work in the Philadelphia community, I designed and taught spring, summer, and fall poetry and theater workshops for Muslim youth to empower them to proudly express their Muslim identities. Lastly, I have also mentored and continue to mentor aspiring Muslim children’s book writers and would love to continue that work with Highlights.”
How will Muslim children see themselves in your stories?
“Muslim children are the center of the stories I tell. Whether their faith is explicitly shown or not, the characters are unapologetically Muslim. I hope that every Muslim child who reads my books is also seeing a message that runs through all my stories: be boldly you, appreciate you, appreciate every part of you.”