I have just received my copy of Little People, Big dream's book about Maria Montessori.…
Finding good quality books is not a small task. Finding children's books that represent Black Children and other minority ethnics is even more complicated.
I am also more mindful about checking the children's authors. My current aim is to find more BAME and BIPOC authors.
This is why I am delighted to present you Keisha Ehigie, the founder of Imagine Me Story, a children's books subscription box in the UK.
Can you introduce yourself and your family?
I’m Keisha Ehigie, a Nigerian-Jamaican mom based in the UK. I’m married with a 4 year old girl and a 4 month old boy.
How did you come up with the Imagine Me stories idea?
Shortly before my daughter turned three I noticed she became more conscious of her appearance, particularly her skin tone and her hair.
She was questioning why her hair wasn’t straight and why she was darker skinned than all the boys and girls she was seeing on tv, in books, in birthday cards and toys etc.
I realised that there was a serious lack of representation for children like her in children’s media and it was leading to self- esteem issues, even at such a young age.
I went out to buy some books with characters that looked like our family in order to affirm her and there were hardly any in the high street stores.
I later discovered that only 1% of UK children’s books featured a black main character (CLPE 2018). I spoke to other black parents and started to hear heartbreaking stories about children feeling ugly because they didn’t look a certain way and I knew I had to do something to help change the narrative.
I decided to set up an affirmative subscription box with books with black main characters so that black children could see themselves represented in the books they read and so all children can see that there are different stories and experiences from what they may be accustomed to.
The box also includes black history and African activities so children can learn about black people who have done amazing things around the world. In addition to our boxes, we provide schools with diverse book packages featuring characters from all nationalities as we believe all children should read diverse books.
When did you start and how is your business developing?
We officially launched in September 2019 after a long pre-launch campaign. The interest in our boxes has been so inspiring. We have sent out hundreds of boxes since we launched and have been fortunate enough to be featured on the BBC and in Forbes. It’s been so humbling to see the impact a little subscription box like ours has made in the lives of children and it shows how powerful representation is and why it is so important especially in childhood.
Could you give us some guidelines to choose diverse books for children?
I would say when choosing diverse books, although it’s important to look for books that talk about important topics such as race, discrimination, disabilities, immigration etc, so you can have those conversations, also make a conscious effort to buy books that show children of other nationalities and backgrounds doing regular things like swimming, getting a haircut, being superheroes, going on adventures and just having a happy childhood. This is so important as there is the risk of viewing children from other backgrounds through the prism of pain which could ultimately be harmful.
Until recently, I never really paid attention to the authors, wrongly assuming that if they were talking about a specific country or culture or racism topic, they would likely be “experts” or from that culture, so would you recommend us some of your favourite BAME authors? It seems such a quest to find them!
In terms of children’s books my favourite BAME authors are:
Atinuke (Baby goes to market, No 1 Car Spotter, Africa Amazing Africa) We love Atinuke as well!
Vashti Harrison ( Dream Big Little One)
Polly Alakija (Catch that Goat) (note it is a firm favourite here too!)
Vese Aghoghovbia (Who do I see in the mirror)
Trish Cooke (So Much)
Matthew Cherry (Hair Love).
I’ve also been reading a lot of African fiction (for adults) lately and my favourite authors in this genre are Buchi Emecheta (Joys of Womanhood), Sarah Ladipo Manyika (In Dependence), Chibundu Onuzo (Welcome to Lagos), Flora Nwapa (Efuru), Oyinkan Braithwaite (My Sister, The Serial Killer), Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani (I do not come to you by chance), Chinua Achebe (No Longer at Ease). I could go on and on but I’ll stop as I’ll probably fill up this entire page!
Obviously, the purpose of your box is that Black children see themselves in books. Would you extend to other minorities?
Through our school programs we provide a variety of books featuring all ethnicities as we believe all children should be reading diverse books. The subscription box is just a small element of our overall mission and being a one-woman business at the moment I’m still limited in how much we can offer. However in the future our mission is to provide and create books and media which reflect the beautiful diversity of the world.
Thank you so much for participating! And for more info about Imagine Me Story, visit their website!
And watch their video:
I also want to add that Imagine Me Story made a pledge to donate a free box to a UK school or nursery each month as their way of helping to diversify books children are exposed to in educational settings. You can nominate a school or Early years setting directly on their Instagram.
Do you have a favourite BAME author? Please comment below with your children's favourite books or authors worth sharing!