Guest post by Speech and Language Therapist (and publisher), Sunita Mistry Shah
My name is Sunita and I am the brain behind The Jai Jais, a growing collection of books, yoga/mindfulness and educational resources for children centered around Hindu gods and goddesses.
Using my expertise as a speech and language therapist, along with my children’s natural curiosity about their faith, to produce the collection for children of all ages and backgrounds. I was always a book worm…our house is full of books, I have two boys ages 3 and 7 years Storytime is still a treasured time of the day with my children.
My spark to create books about Hindu characters was ignited when my eldest son, Syon began asking questions about the temple in our home. He would talk about the elephant god, the monkey god and the powerful fork ‘trident’ of Lord Shiva which he thought was like King Triton from The Little Mermaid.
I admit I would often ‘make up’ stories from memory and from what my 99-year-old grandfather and mother had taught me, but it never seemed to be enough.
Hunting around, I realized that while there were a few books for school-aged children and beyond, resources for pre-school children were scarce. That’s when I decided to write my own. I wanted to develop a book that was suitable for his age with relatable images.
While being a mother gave me the thirst to produce the books, my background in speech and language therapy armed me with the essential ingredients to write for children. I am the National Advisor for the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy and deliver training to the NHS and educational and private establishments on supporting bilingual children.
I started researching and wrote my first book about the elephant-headed Ganesh which was released in 2015. Using the power of social media, I advertised for an illustrator and was introduced to James Ballance who worked in a special needs school with children with severe difficulties. It was a divine connection, and eighteen books later, James continues to work his magic with The Jai Jais.
I tried to find a publisher but with many publishers, you have to secure support from an agent. The book was new and had minimal proven sales so we had a waterfall of ‘not for us’ from agents.” Eventually, I decided to get my own ISBN and self-publish the first book.
The collection has since grown to include a baby series of board books showcasing core vocabulary, nine titles in the main range, and a festival collection for children aged 4-7 years. Last year I also released the Legends collection which has the story of the epic Ramayan re-written and is very mystical for older children.
I want my books to cater for all ages, and all developmental levels, having been a practicing speech and language therapist for over 20 years, I’ve used the knowledge of children’s language developmental norms milestones to create this series.
The Jai Jais are particularly suitable for children with special educational needs. The images are bright, colorful and engaging for children with visual impairment or auditory processing difficulties. Even if the child may not be at a good sentence level of comprehension, the pictures engage their imagination and level to discuss the pictures so they can gain knowledge at their level of functioning.
The books have been well received across the generations. A special moment was seeing my 99-year-old grandfather sitting with my three-year-old son reading and talking about the characters in the books. It was precious to see how grandparents can be so involved and have a common focus on their grandchildren.
Creating books with Hindu characters
The Jai Jais has become a valuable game-changer for educational establishments, especially when teaching Hindusim and Indian culture. I love to see children from different backgrounds being attracted to the characters and learning facts about the Hindu gods and goddesses.
When my son took our first Diwali book into school, the teacher told me ‘Jai Jai mania’ swept through the classroom. The children were excited about storytime and were making puppets and pictures of Hanuman and Ravana, and actually understanding why their peers celebrated Diwali.
Along with the books, I have created a set of yoga and mindfulness cards to support teaching yoga and mindfulness to children.
It’s amazing how quickly The Jai Jais brand has evolved since the first book. More than anything it’s lovely to see how proud my sons are of their beloved Jai Jais, and how much they enjoyment they have when they seek to find more information.
Sunita Mistry Shah is a London based Speech and Language Therapist with over 16 years experience working with pre-school children with Speech, Language and Communication difficulties, in the National Health Service and with her private practice; “Together Let’s Communicate”.
Sunita specializes in working with bilingual children and works at a national level to promote the advantages of learning two or more languages which is her passion.
Sunita is also a mother to a little boy Syon, who is what inspired her to write this series of books. “Nothing can beat grandma’s tales and stories, but I wanted a way to teach my son about Hindu Gods and Goddess from an early age. I wanted to create simple characters that a 3-year-old would find fun engaging and easy to learn”. Sunita used her extensive knowledge as a Speech and Language Therapist to ensure the communication levels for this book were age-appropriate for pre-school children.
Sunita is passionate about children not growing up too fast and enjoying their childhood, creating memories and interactions that will last a lifetime.
ONE MORE THING
Show some social media love while marketing your book (or an author you admire) in a creative and far-reaching way!
Multicultural Children’s Book Day Social Media Shout-Outs
Our Social Media Shout-Outs has escalated in popularity over the last few months because folks see that it an affordable way to show some online love to their own work, an author they admire, or a book they admire. MCBD Social Media Shout-Outs also acts as a fundraiser for this non-profit.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day Social Media Shout-Out =$25 (sale price good until 2/28/20)
Anyone with a PayPal account can gift an online “shout-out” to an author friend who has a kid’s or YA book with a diversity theme OR use it as an effective tool for their own book marketing and book promotion.
Using a custom image created by the MCBD Team, we will provide one share/post our Twitter feed (over 13.7K followers) on our Instagram Feed (over 10.500 followers), within our Multicultural Children’s Book Day Private Facebook Group (over 1500 Members) and our Facebook page (over 4K followers) as well.
That’s a LOT of eyeballs!
AND, right now, everyone has a chance to lock in a Social Media Shout Out at the $25 rate before the price goes up on March 1, 2020. (Purchasers have 30 days from the date of the Shout Out purchase to redeem their purchase).
GO HERE to get more details, see more samples of past Shout-Outs, and to purchase your own Social Media Shout Out to honor someone in the world of diverse books for kids and teens! #ReadYourWorld