A New Book To Teach Kids That Our Differences Are Wonderful

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I grew up in a relatively idyllic town forty five minutes outside of Boston.  My parents immigrated there when I was just past three years old. Though I hear that after thirty plus years the diversity has seen an uptick, lets just say the town was pretty monochromatic at that time. 

I can't imagine what it was like for my parents though from my three and a half foot vantage point, my father was pretty head down in building his venture and my mother was too busy raising me pretty single-handedly to worry too much about it.  In a way, their security meant mine for many years.  But, I got to high school and sixteen year olds can be cruel especially when their hormones are raging.  

I left Acton with an incredibly smart, kind social circuit, many of whom remain my closest friends today.  But that's not to say there wasn't a fair share of tumult and identity crisis circa 2002, mostly, in retrospect, wrapped up with the fact that my name and my Indian background got a lot of flack in the halls.  To fit in, I acted out for a bit of time which did me more of a disservice.  Luckily, it was a blip and I somehow found the maturity to spend a year in India before college, where I grew very comfortable in my own brown skin.

When Dan and I intermittently revisit the conversation about where we want to raise our kids long term, I consistently repeat a refrain about only living in a place where my little ones can grow up believing their differences make them wonderful.

I haven't started on a soapbox yet with my two and a half year old and I hope that he just absorbs the awareness from the spectrum of ethnicities he's surrounded by in New York.  But I'm sure there will be a day, the contemplations amid his peer group will grow more significant. 

Today, Bodie and I both serendipitously gravitated to the little fountain area in the middle of Madison Square park.  We were the first to arrive at a park organized story-time so I could actually take it in a bit instead of hustling to get settled. The author was Sheetal Sheth, with one of her daughters, maybe two years older than Bodie, helping her with set up.  As the strollers started to gather around we parked ourselves at the activity station and she read aloud from her book, Always Anjali.  

The story follows a little girl with a Sanksrit name, Anjali, who gets mocked by her classmates for a name that isn't familiar.  She returns home embarrassed and angry.  But her glorious parents say all the right things as she falls asleep and she wakes up with all the pride we'd wish for our kids.  

One line in particular broke me away from helping Bodie glue his foam initials to the blank name plates that Sheetal had arranged at the tables.  Anjali's mother told her as she tried to sleep that night, "Our differences make us marvelous."

Bodie and I went up to thank Sheetal, name plate in hand, and I wasn't small-talking at all when I said I wished I'd had that book once upon a time.  We traded our kids' names.  I got to say his name is Bodie and it's Sankrit.

Always Anjali is published by Bharat Babies and has sold out on Amazon twice! Do you have other favorite reads to help kids understand diversity and differences? 

Featured Image via Lawyering in Lilly