Guest post by Sailaja Joshi, CEO and founder of Mango and Marigold Press
Did I just wake up to the best year of my life?
Because folks, I’m going to share with you a secret that I’ve been keeping to myself for almost seven days.
Last week, I had a dream. I was strolling through a garden full of Mango trees. The mangoes were ripe and yellow and ready to eat. There was a stream of freshwater near the hills. The pathway leading uphill was graced with fields of Marigold and sunflowers.
It was serene and majestic. And there I saw my daughter. In her hands was a big thaali full of yellow, purple, blue, red, orange and green holi colors. She was mixing all of these colors together. Creating a beautiful blend of diversity just like I taught her…
I know exactly why I had that dream. It’s because it’s our fifth year in and I still cannot wrap my head around the idea that we’ve successfully launched fourteen books, featured seven authors, and initiated one amazing campaign!
I’m talking about the #1001DiverseBooks campaign of course!
Our initiative was not only to bridge the diversity gap in children’s literature, but also the accessibility gap! We know how hard it is for children, educators, and nonprofits to access high-quality diverse literature. We’ve heard concerns first hand from parents and teachers that their children did not have enough multicultural books.
That is when my team and I committed to raising funds to donate 1001 diverse books to literacy and advocacy nonprofits across the country with each book launch. This became a BIG movement and it’s pretty incredible how we always managed to reach our goals within a matter of days. It showed how keenly people take part in distributing high-quality diverse books.
With our expansion of Mango and Marigold Press (MMP), we plan to take our vision even further. The evolution of MMP was solely based on our mission to create more diverse books for middle grade and young adults. We also wanted to incorporate sweet and savory stories from all over South Asia, beyond Indian borders.
You know, it’s an unforgettable feeling when a child giggles upon seeing a character like him/her on the cover of a storybook. Their mind immediately stimulates positivity that they too can be heroes.
Our latest book Bindiya In India is all set to launch. This story will explore the colorful festivities of India. So many Indian children, living abroad will be able to connect with it. In the same way, our last book Finding Om which was a multicultural, a multigenerational story made its way into the hearts of thousands of children.
Through our stories, we share the message of peace, abundance, prosperity, and celebrating diversity. We aim to bring more diverse books into libraries, schools, and your own personal bookshelves this year. Our children need to learn these positive messages now more than ever. They’re smarter. They’re curious. And they’re seeking answers. So, let’s make sure we make ample diverse literature available for them to study and learn from.
It’s not a privilege. Your child deserves to see lookalike characters as heroes on storybook covers.
Because every child is a hero!
Sailaja Joshi is the CEO and founder of Mango and Marigold Press (formerly Bharat Babies), an award-winning independent publishing house that shares the sweet and savory experiences of the South Asian experience. With the impending birth of her oldest child, founder Sailaja Joshi searched for books about her Indian culture. Upon reading the few stories that existed, Sailaja realized that many of them were inappropriate or worse, insensitive. Sailaja knew the power of representation and set out to change home libraries. When you buy a Mango and Marigold Press book you ensure that every child sees themselves as the hero of their story. When children see themselves in the ordinary and extraordinary, they realize that anything is possible.
Guest Post By: Erin Twamley
From the #ownvoices to #readyourworld to specific trends like #WomeninSTEM, book creators and readers are hungry for the production and consumption of diverse literature.
As an author and an educator myself of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math or STEM publications, I have found that especially in the nonfiction children’s book world our biggest challenge may be us as creatives. We shape not only the words, illustrations but the accolades around diverse literature. We have the power to do so much more in driving that diversity, especially in the creation of STEM works. I am sharing four observations for creators of books, whether you are a writer, illustrator, reviewer or publisher, and even a reader to consider.
STEM Diversity in Multicultural Books
- Diversity is NOT monolithic. Look up or ask a reader, publisher or another author how they define diversity and you will be surprised at the spectrum of answers. In the book world, research, readers and creators have focused on what the characters look like, #representation matters. We as creators need to ensure that our characters embody the cultural nuances, from language, beliefs, abilities, gender, and age, beyond just how they appear. All of these shape experiences and connections with our readers. My point, it is not enough to just have a diverse character on the page, but we must authentically tell or share their story.
- Not all scientists are dead or old. It may seem obvious and don’t get me wrong, I love all the recognition and push for nonfiction children’s books autobiographies (I have written one myself). But I keep asking who are the scientists of today? We forget about #ActualLivingScientists. As a young reader, don’t you want to know who is leading efforts to revitalize our coral reefs or creating the spacesuits that will fit our women astronauts? Our readers need to see that it is not always just “ancient” scientists making discoveries and shaping our future.
- Think about how you depict and write about technology!
Many of our readers (children’s book) are digital natives. Our readers use technology and don’t know a world without it from videogames to cell phones to artificial intelligence. Instead of using illustrations that depict magic or sentences that overlook the function of technology — share about it! WiFi or computers, for example, don’t just STOP working! Share a plot twist, a fact or an illustration that explains how or why the WiFI might have been interrupted (e.g., a power outage from a storm) or where the satellite actually flies (e.g. Outerspace or near-Earth?) You can help readers see and learn about the technology they and the characters you write about using.
- Out of the lab! Where do stories happen? A house, a school, a library, a yard or a nearby forest. If talking about science, we see characters in a lab or dreaming of outer space. So much of our science happens in everyday scenes. Use renewable energy (e.g., solar panels on a house), a doctor’s office with the latest equipment (e.g., a robotic surgery machine) or the inside of a rocket ship to show where STEM happens. Kids need to imagine and SEE where science happens, most of it is outside of a lab and not in a white lab coat.
About Erin Twamley
Erin Twamley is working to create a new generation of Everyday STEM Superheroes. As an author and educator, her hands-on STEM encounters, nonfiction children’s books, and related publications engage the next generation of learners in protecting and creating a sustainable planet. In 2018 she established ErinEDU, an educational consulting group with a mission to cultivate curiosity and asking questions by sharing the adventures of diverse professionals in STEM Careers and their STEM Superpowers.
Ms. Twamley loves to travel the world and has lived on three continents. You will find Erin in the European Union hosting interactive author and STEM encounters for US military children and adults of all ages. Learn more about her writings and encounters by visiting her website at www.erinedu.org or join STEM Superheroes on social media!
Facebook link @STEMSuperhero
Twitter Link: @STEMsuperheros
Instagram Link @everydaystemsuperheroes
Star Bright Books is an independent children’s book publishing house that was established in 1994. They are dedicated to producing great books for great kids—books for parents and children to discover together. Today, Star Bright Books’ high-quality hardcover, paperback, and board books are available in bookstores, schools, libraries, and literacy programs.
This growing publisher believe that all children should see themselves in print and they make a concerted effort to include children of all colors, ethnicities, nationalities, and abilities in their books. As Star Bright Books also believes that children should see and hear familiar language in their books, they publish books in 23 languages including Arabic, Chinese, Navajo, Spanish, and many more. [Read more…]
Guest Post from Katia Senff-Director of Publishing, FarFaria
Recently, the lack of diverse books in children’s publishing has been making headlines. A dismal 10% of books published in 2012 contained multicultural content. Yet, 37% of the US population is made up of people of color. A change in children’s publishing is long overdue and publishers like FarFaria are striving to challenge the status quo.
At FarFaria, we take deliberate steps to ensure that our books are as diverse as the children who read them. Because of our own multicultural backgrounds, many of our books explore traditions from around the world, as well as the diversity within our own country. As a result, our books contain a great range of characters. [Read more…]