My earliest memories are of traveling. We’re in our two-toned white and chocolate brown Ford station wagon headed from Kansas to Florida. Family friends have joined us for the 4,000-mile trip—four adults and five kids aged three to six are packed into a car that seems as big as a boat. As a bonus we take a quick flight to Havana. My only memories of that side trip are of tall, dark haired women with skin the color of roasted peanuts striding past us in stiletto heels and pencil skirts. My mother and her friend wore neither. At the impressionable age of three I already knew people had different ways of living.
While in many ways this may seem to be just a random memory, it’s not. It’s a precursor to what will come decades later as my business partner, Lisa Travis, and I launch Pack-n-Go Girls. Our mission is this: We want to shrink the world. We want little girls to dream of going to far away places and not just to the mall. If they dream about it, they’re a lot more likely to pack their bags and go some day. And when they get out there, they’ll discover that even though we may have colorful differences across the globe, they’ll also discover that people are the same all over the world.If they can’t pack their bags and go, the next best thing is to at least read about other countries and cultures. Our Pack-n-Go Girls adventure books engage the imagination of girls ages six to nine by introducing them to different countries around the world. The current list includes books about Mexico, Austria, and Thailand. They’re packed with spooky mysteries, international friendships, and lots of fun and easy learning about another country.
As we wrote the early books, we realized we wanted to reflect diversity, not just the cultural differences in the countries we visit but also the multicultural richness of our own country. According to the National Journal, this is the last year that whites will outnumber minorities in the US school system. Yet only ten percent of children’s books have a multicultural character.
Here’s another way to wrap our heads around this. What if ninety percent of children’s books only had boy characters? It wouldn’t be just the outrage we’d feel. It would also be what we’d be missing by having a single sex dominate all the books. What would boys understand about girls if they never read books with female characters? I wonder, too, would I be a reader today if I’d only read books with male characters?
I had the luxury of always reading about characters who looked just like me. Recently, though, I talked with a friend of Chinese decent as I researched an Asian-American character. She said, “I would have loved to have had a book like this with a girl who looked like me.” That thought would never have occurred to me as I read my own early chapter books decades ago. What a loss for both of us.
What an opportunity as we write new books. ~Janelle Diller (Co-Founder of Pack-n-Go Girls®_
Dreaming of true-blue friends, mysterious adventures, and faraway places? Pack-n-Go Girls take you there!
Winner of the 2014 Gold Medal, Best Children’s Chapter Book Series, Moonbeam Children’s Book Award
Headquartered in Colorado Springs, CO, Pack-n-Go Girls® specializes in creating innovative stories and toys for girls that deliver positive messages around independence, adventure, and global awareness. Lisa Travis founded the company after a miserable cross-country trip with small children and few entertaining travel books and toys to be found. Janelle Diller joined her in this mission, and together they are working to give the best gift they can give a child: curiosity about the world beyond herself.
Learn more about the Pack-n-Go Girls® books and related products HERE.