I love reading children’s books. Picture books with colored illustrations are my favorite. I enjoy them as much as my children, sometimes even more than them. But as I read them “The Day The Crayons Came Home” or the Elephant and the Piggie books or even the classics like the Red Riding Hood, I also crave to read to them books that I have grown up reading. The Panchatantra, The Folk Tales from India, Akbar Birbal, Goplal Bhad (in Bengali) and many others. I would put in a request to whoever was traveling to India to get some books or search on Amazon like a mad woman. 

This is not my experience alone. Most parents of Indian origin, living across the globe have similar stories to share. Living in India, this may not be challenge at all and the choices are abundant. When we speak about South Asia, it is always restrictive, there are often  countries and languages that are missed or forgotten. (My local library had one single book on Sri Lanka when we needed one for a school project.)

And then, I happened to learn about Kitaab World through a chance phone call with one of it’s co-founder Gauri Manglik. Kitaab in Hindi translates to Book, A World of Books – Kitaab World.

A lawyer turned children’s book curator now, she along with her co-founder Sadaf Siddique, founded Kitaab World, a one stop shop for children’s book from 8 South Asian countries.What’s even better is they are curating books in languages other than English. They have bilingual books in Tamil, Bengali and Urdu and are expanding to Burmese, Nepali, Gujarati, Punjabi and Kannada too.

Diversity in the classrooms and playgrounds is a global phenomena now. And there has never existed a better method than storytelling to engage and make children aware of the cultures of the different countries around the globe. In a classroom of 25, if there are kids from 15 different countries and each brings to the class a story, a book from each of those countries and they read the stories one after the other. Imagine the beauty of such a storytelling session. Or say the teacher stocks up books from authors of different countries in the classroom and reads it to the class, it makes all cultures inclusive and it nourishes and enriches the children. 

KitaabWorld is a passion project that grew out of our desire to expose our children to fun and engaging books and toys related to South Asia. Our aim is to open up a window to stories – some old, some new but definitely ones that expand one’s worldview. We hope that all children catch a glimpse of themselves reflected in these books. -Gauri and Sadaf, co-founders, KitaabWorld 

If any of you are wondering if I am writing a review for them, I am not. I rarely do a product review but I also live in the Bay Area where a start-up pops up every 5 mins. Some for a cause that I can relate to and some that I absolutely do not comprehend. This however is an initiative that is close to my heart because it is about stories, books, storytellers, authors and it is about the picture below. This is why the cause of diverse books in the classrooms is important. This is why a recognition for the south asian authors is important. And this is how we can make these stories mainstream, available to all. 

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You can help and donate for the cause here. Donate it in a classroom or your local library or to a play school or an after school or even as a return gift for your children’s birthday parties.

Diverse is beautiful just like a rainbow. In a world where we are raising our children as global citizens, it is important they learn to appreciate their own cultural roots as well as that of others. That is only possible when we show them all the colors of the rainbow.

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This happens to be the festive season for everyone one from the Indian diaspora. Books make for an excellent gift. I have not met a child who does not love a colorful book full of stories. A box of mithais and candies can only last for a bit, a gift of a books last for a lifetime.

In the older days, the grandparents spent hours storytelling to the kids in the house. The kids sat glued in listening to stories, illustrating them in their mind, memories of which  would stay with them for a lifetime. That privilege is more of a luxury in the life of today’s children. Books are what make up for those storytelling sessions.

Hop on to the Kitaab World site. Gift a book and brighten up the festive season even more !

Pictures Provided by : Kitaab World ,  Story By : Piya Mukherjee Kalra 

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