When award-winning children's book author and illustrator John Steptoe was growing up, he found that the easiest way to express himself was with a pencil. "I was an introvert," he says. "I didn't fit in. It was as though the only way that I might connect with the world around me was to draw it."

In honor of Children's Book Week and the opening of the National Museum of African Art, the Smithsonian Resident Associates program will present an evening with Steptoe at 7 p.m. Wednesday. He will be reading from his latest book, "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters."

Inspired by an African Cinderella tale, the "book contains images that I've wanted to see all my life," Steptoe says. "I wanted to create a book that included some of the things that were left out of my own education about my ancestors." Steptoe dedicated "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters," winner of the 1987 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, to the children of South Africa. Children can talk to the author and receive posters of his work at a reception following the storytelling. The reading will be at the S. Dillon Ripley Center Auditorium, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW. Call 357-3030 for more information.