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Creating stories for young readers to help them connect with their cultural roots

Creating stories for young readers to help them connect with their cultural roots

UK-based children’s book author and publisher, Rakhi Singh, has authored more than 50 books, including six bestsellers in multiple categories and multiple times. Her fiction and non-fiction books present an array of captivating Indian cultural stories, festivals and educational resources.

In this iGlobal exclusive, she shares her writing journey, her inspiration to write for young readers and her passion to keep children from the diaspora connected to their cultural heritage.

Q

Can you share a bit about your personal journey and how you took up writing?

A

I have always been a writer, starting in childhood with stories and poetry, participating in school competitions and weekly newspaper challenges. During my teenage years, I continued writing poetry. There was a hiatus while raising my children, but now that they are grown, I have returned to my passion for writing. This time, the writing is for culture. It's a very in-depth field, which cannot be expressed in just few words.

Nowadays my writing focuses on cultural stories for children and families. I observed that children growing up outside India struggle to connect with their Indian heritage, which concerned me. To address this, I began writing books to preserve and explain cultural heritage. My first book, "Mum, What is Navratri?", was well-received and popular among children, families, and educators. It has been great seeing so many people reach out to tell me how helpful the book has been for them.

I conduct thorough research to create simplified and engaging stories suitable for children. My writing aims to make cultural knowledge accessible and memorable for young readers. To date, I have published over 50 books, both fiction and non-fiction, appreciated by children, parents, and educators for their insightful and educational content.

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Q

How do you approach writing for British Indian children growing up in the UK?

A

The biggest challenge I face is that my target audience is outside of India and lacks inherent knowledge about Indian culture, festivals, and heritage. I need to consider their perspective and how they will respond to this unfamiliar information. This requires understanding the age group and psyche of the children to make the content engaging. Language is also a challenge, as I write in English to ensure accessibility.

For very young children, I simplify the text and use vibrant, colourful illustrations to capture their attention. Visual appeal is crucial for initial engagement, leading to a higher likelihood of reading and exploring the content. For example, in my book "Mum, What is Navratri?" and others like "Five Days of Diwali," I simplify the explanations and use illustrations to convey significance. I address the reasons behind festivals, not just the celebrations.

I design my books, which are all available on Amazon, with age-appropriate font sizes, layouts, and content, sometimes including colouring pages and certificates of achievement. For fun activities, I provide instructions for making items like kites for Makar Sankranti and laddus [Indian sweets] for Diwali. My books often include additional elements like pre-designed Diwali cards and outfit designs to engage children beyond just reading. This multifaceted approach aims to make the learning experience enjoyable and educational, fostering a deeper connection with Indian culture.

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Q

What made you venture into the genre of children’s literature?

A

Childhood is the ideal time to impart emotions, knowledge, and cultural teachings. Reading naturally comes to children, encouraged by families, teachers, and libraries from a very young age. Recognising the importance of reading in childhood, I decided to introduce cultural books to fill the gap in Indian representation in children's literature. There is a lack of cultural diversity, including different colours, and characters.

Having moved from India, I realised my children were missing out on their cultural heritage. This inspired me to write children's books that provide cultural knowledge and foster a global understanding. Books are not just stories; they ignite emotions, imagination, and creativity. They offer insights into different cultures, making them valuable for readers of any background.

My mission is to promote multicultural reading and address the underrepresentation of diversity in children's literature. Encouraging children to read about various cultures helps bridge gaps and fosters a more inclusive understanding of the world.

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