Tag: children’s books

Willow Asks Why?

A friend I went to school with has been a great source of encouragement and inspiration. I have seen how she has raised two beautiful children, and how she is constantly working to make South Africa a better place for the next generation. I have seen her raise difficult questions, work with others, and teach her children to be kind, considerate and loving towards others.

I saw her announce that she had started co-writing a book series named “Delightful Tales About Difficult Topics”, with the first book being “Willow Asks Why?”. I wanted to know more. This series of books is to be enjoyed by parents and their children together, and to show a way of speaking through difficult questions that kids may have – especially in all their honesty and innocence.


Your names: Kimberley Clow & Graham Geiger-Kirige

Business name: Delightful Tales About Difficult Topics

Social media handles: Instagram, Facebook and Website.

3 fun facts about you:
Kim:
* I am currently reading Brene Brown’s latest book, The Gifts Of Imperfection
* Unashamedly obsessed with reality television.
* In 2021; I am learning to speak Xhosa

Graham:
* Life Motto: “Beards Before Razors”
* Firm believer in tea bags being removed BEFORE milk is added.
* Proud father of 8 house plants (I have read the book to them)

Tell me a little more about the book you have written:
‘Willow asks Why?’ is a story about the ever-curious Willow, who begins to question why there seems to be a different set of rules, for people of different races. Packed with light-hearted illustrations, the powerful message is that we should always question the world around us and learn to see the ‘invisible’ roles that privilege & structural racism play. Only then can we challenge them.

What age group is this aimed at:
The book aims to spark conversations with kids of all ages, however if we had to give a specific age range, we’d say particularly kids between the ages of 2 and 4, as this is when they’re most vulnerable to societal stereotypes and prejudices.

What was the inspiration behind the book:
Kim is a mother of two and has a diverse family. Naturally, she began searching for locally produced children’s books that would more accurately reflect the members of her own family. She managed to find a few but not nearly enough and decided to write her own story with a focus on promoting diversity & inclusion, in a South African context.

Graham is a lifelong family friend of Kim’s, a freelance Copywriter and part time woodwork teacher at the Little Warthogs Playschool – run by his wife, an early childhood development specialist. So when Kim pitched her idea of a children’s book series promoting diversity & inclusion, Graham swapped his power tools for a pen & paper.

Where can people purchase one from:
You can order ‘Willow asks Why?’ on our website.

What is the price of the book:
Our retail price is R120 and 15% of the profits of every book purchased will go to ARNSA – The Anti-Racism Organisation of South Africa. They work closely with the Ahmed Kathrada and Nelson Mandela Foundations among many others to ensure that organisations are equipped to deal with racism within communities. Jump on to their website to find out more about their various initiatives and collaborators.

Why is this book so special to you:
Kim:
It’s a daily reminder of the strength my children gave me to step out of my comfort zone; and write a story that I believe in. There is massive racial bias in South Africa; and I would like to play an active role in trying to change this.

Graham:
Learning to navigate your way through the world can be tough, let alone when you’ve barely cut your first tooth! Working on this book was special because it has the potential to help kids ask critical questions, discuss difficult topics in an open way and hopefully make a confusing world, slightly less confusing.

Why do you think this is a conversation we should be having with kids:
Kids may begin identifying with race as early as 6 months old; and may start generalising by 2, therefore it’s super important to have these conversations as early as possible, before any misconceptions become ingrained. If kids can learn to discuss these problems when they’re young, they have the power and time to help change it.

Quote you live by:
Kim: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”
Graham: “Reading is an exercise in empathy”

Anything else you want to add:
‘Willow asks Why?’ is the first book of a series, ‘Delightful Tales About Difficult Topics’. As the name suggests, the goal of each book will be to make it easier for parents to have open & honest conversations about complex topics, not covered enough within the children’s book genre. We have some ideas for future topics but no concrete decisions have been made, so watch this space!


I am so honoured to have been able to chat to amazing people like Kim and Graham, as well as Toys With Roots last year. We need to be aware of the way we speak to and about others, and we need to show our children the importance of acceptance, inclusion, and kindness.

This book is so needed in South Africa, and I could not be more proud of these wonderful people who have taken the step and making changes for our futures.


Toys with Roots

Recently a friend of mine posted on her social media saying she was looking for a black baby doll for her daughter.  She was horrified at the lack of selection in the shops (there were only 2 options in 4 full rows of white dolls), and their prices seemed to be a lot higher as well.  I was shocked!  How, in South Africa especially, is this a reality?

And then I thought back to the time I went looking for a black doll for a child of one of the Rare Bear Project lady’s.  I remember how I searched all over and really battled to find one.  I felt exhausted, and let-down.  But then I handed over the little black doll to Progeny’s daughter and I saw her literal excitement as she held a baby that looked like her.  I saw her little face light up and she immediately began to play with her new friend.  I knew that I had to do more research into this!

Recently I posted on my Instagram asking for recommendations of local businesses that people recommend, and Toys with Roots was top of the list.  I immediately sent Thabo and Mpumi a message to find out more about their business and this great husband-and-wife team.  And guys, this is a business like no other.  I am SO excited about what they are doing, how they are encouraging self-love and that they are celebrating our beautiful African heritage.


Your names: Thabo & Mpumi Motsabi (Founders)

Business name: Toys with Roots

Shoprite Jan Smuts - Toys with Roots: Thabo & Mpumi Motsabi

Shoprite Jan Smuts – Toys with Roots: Thabo & Mpumi Motsabi

Social media handles: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Website.

Tell me a fun/interesting fact about the 2 of you: We were in the same high school but the first time we exchanged words was years later while doing our tertiary studies.

Tell me a bit more about Toys with Roots: Toys with Roots exists to ensure that each African child can have an experience of being intentionally and beautifully celebrated. We believe that our African children need to identify with as well as see themselves and their greatness in the songs they sing, books they read, toys they engage with and media they consume. It is through Play that they can best learn and form important concepts about themselves and their world. We believe that toys aren’t just toys but tools to educate, mould and shape children. We have an online store where we sell these products. We find like minded entrepreneurs and sell their producs in order to ensure that we can provide parents a one stop shop of all the toys and books for African children that they would desire.


Where did the idea for this business come from: When we started in 2015 our daughters then 3 & 7 years would put towels on their hair pretending to have long flowy hair, from the cartoons they watched and toys they played with. We could see that there was a dissatisfaction with their natural hair and this was concerning. What was even sadder was that we couldn’t find much in store which represented what they looked like amongst aisles of products. We later had an opportunity to buy brown dolls from a lady we met who was selling from the boot of her car. We were so excited to see these beautiful dolls that represented our children so respectfully. Being entrepreneurial, we bought a few more to resell because we recognized that there were parents out there who were faced with the same struggle of finding toys that represented their children. Since then we have been on a journey to assist parents to affirm their children and help them recognise the value in their uniqueness.

How long have you guys been running for: We started in March 2015, so we celebrated 5 years this year. Through this journey we have managed to develop our business model and have become a one stop shop for a variety of toys and books for African children.

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We have around 8 doll brands, 7 book authors with 5 languages represented. We specialise in brown dolls of different shades, sizes and hair. The dolls all have a story behind them and are created by passionate entrepreneurs from around the continent. Lali is our inhouse fashion doll brand created by Toys with Roots.

We have children’s books that are written in different South African languages, the ones in vernacular are suitable for entry level readers. Within the book range we also have a fashion book which appeals to our tweens market.

Within the range are also puzzles and backpacks.

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We created a childrens music album with different South African nursery rhymes “Songs with Lali” which is also available on different digital music platforms.

We have plans to create more products for boys and increase the diversity of products on offer, all with the same intention of celebrating African children.

In addition to these products, we have created a range of dolls for Shoprite Checkers, called Rainbow Kids. This is a project we are very proud of due to its social impact reaching children in parts of the country and the continent which we have not been able to reach.

Which is your personal favourite product in your range: Definitely Songs with Lali musical album! We are a family which sings ALL THE TIME! We make up our own songs as a family just for fun and also to help with learning. The close favourite is the African-Hut because our youngest two always like to play outside in their Ndebele tents.

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Why do you think diversity is so important, especially in South Africa: South Africa is characterised by deep seated pain and complexes of inferiority and supremacy, which are not going to be eradicated in a generation. These beliefs are passed on through generations, sometimes unknowingly. It is through exposure to the “other” in our society that learning can begin to take place and some of these beliefs we may hold can be tested and replaced. It may be a difficult process to face the friction that may take place as values clash but it is through this friction, we believe, that dialogues can start and that we can actually begin educating each other and making positive choices. These choices may take the form of having a representative toybox, learning new languages, joining in experiences which are unfamiliar…

Diversity is a strength because it allows for the above to take place. It adds colour, texture and opens us up to new learnings and experiences. We believe that it is our differences in background, perspective, skills, abilities, the way we view the world that make us valuable contributors whether it be in the boardroom or in the classroom.

Exposure to diversity in children’s toy boxes enable them to understand that different doesn’t mean less than or greater than. It just means different. The diversity in their toy box can help them role play the world around them more creatively and in the long run assist them to be more understanding of those around them. It is important in order to erase these perceptions which have existed for so long, so that we can have an inclusive South Africa. #representationmatters Through black children seeing people like them in powerful roles in media, in books, in boardrooms, they can begin to aspire to also be great.

Shoprite Jan Smuts - Toys with Roots: Mpumi, Nyakallo & Thabo Motsabi

Shoprite Jan Smuts – Toys with Roots: Mpumi, Nyakallo & Thabo Motsabi

Why is #BlackLivesMatter a movement that we need to all take notice of: We believe in Ubuntu, that I am because you are. We are not independent of each other, therefore when you hurt I hurt. Said differently, as the human race, we are different parts of the same body. If one part of the body is hurt, e.g. the toe, the whole body stops and pays attention to the pain of the toe and takes steps as one to heal the toe. The impact of the pain on the toe affects the functioning of the entire body. Right now black people are hurting. This is not a new pain, we need to be clear about this. All around the world black people are fighting for recogniton of worth and it’s important that people around the world, the human race, ask themselves how they can help heal this wound. Here is a link to our blog on the subject.

Where can people purchase your products from: Our online store, Our Lali and Baby Thando range is also available at selected Toys R Us stores and our Rainbow Kids range is available exclusively at Shoprite/Checkers stores nationally.

34Lali African Queen Doll collection out box

Why do you think your products are so well-loved: We believe that a large part of it is the desire for parents to give their children what they didn’t have – toys which equip and strengthen them to be self aware and love their black skin, not aspiring to be anything different. There is an awakening amongst black people happening in South Africa and around the world and parents want to ensure that they affirm their children’s instric worth so that they are strong enough to navigate the harsh and discriminatory world. Lastly because they are just so pretty 🙂

Why do you encourage people to purchase your products for their kids: Toys have a Psychological voice and this video shows how toys and the media can negatively affect how children view themselves. So we encourage parents to choose products that celebrate who their children are. We also believe that for parents who are not black, our products have a place because their peers at school and others they interact with may be black so theses toys (with some parent guidance) can help them learn how to treat others who may be different to them.

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How did lockdown affect your business: Very negatively. We were unable to trade for two months and many people are focusing on buying essential products so toy sales have taken a back seat. We are confident though that as birthdays come along, people from all races will choose Toys with Roots to do their shopping.

Quote you live by: “Whether You Think You Can Or Think You Can’t, You’re Right.” – Henry Ford “If you ask me what I came to do, I came to live out loud!” – Emile Zola

Anything else you want to add: As a black woman entering the corporate world, there were many battles I had to fight within and a feeling of being less than my white counterparts always followed me. This was untrue of course but I do believe that there were beliefs I held which I know many others hold today. I don’t want this to be the reality for my children. I want them to enter into rooms confidently and not feeling as though their race discounts them from sitting at the table. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” Ps 139

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As I finish writing this blog, and truly taking in everything that has been written by Thabo and Mpumi, I am in tears.  I know that South Africa can come together as a nation.  And I absolutely LOVE what Toys with Roots is doing.  I have seen first-hand the joy it brings a little girl to see a doll that looks like her – or perhaps one that looks like her friend in her class.  We need to start having open and honest conversations, as well as learning from those around us.  We need to be supportive, kind, and caring.  We need to be like the dolls above and make the world a brighter place.

Please support this beautiful business!  I would love to see more of their dolls all over the place – at my friends’ houses, at playdates, out with the ladies living in KyaSands, and carried around shopping centres with pride.  I know that I am going to be purchasing some for gifts going forward, as well as the playschool in KyaSands, and I truly hope that you will do the same.

Sending love and happiness always x


 

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