Wouldn’t it be great to open up a children’s book and see cultures, traditions and countries celebrated equally? That is the idea behind the brand-new series, Our World My Roots, created by Anna Makanda and Sharmane Barrett. Their culture-rich, informative and engaging non-fiction books for children aim to educate and enrich lives for all.
The origin of the series
When Anna had her first child in 2015, she felt essential to ensure her daughter knew about and felt connected to her rich heritage; being mixed Jamaican, Montserratian, Scottish & Zimbabwean. She noticed a distinct lack of children’s non-fiction books written about specific countries that educate and celebrate individual cultures and traditions when looking for books.
The idea was born. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to pick up a book about any country in the world and have easy access to so much information presented engagingly?
Fast forward to 2020 and the resurgence of the BLM movement during the Coronavirus pandemic. We had many conversations about what was going on, and it became clear that now was the time to bring these books to life. Given the current climate, we decided to start with countries in Africa and the Caribbean.
Each book in the Our World My Roots series is packed full of facts; presented in a fun and engaging way. We cover topics from food to music and language to celebrations. By reading the book alongside the beautiful hand-drawn illustrations that go with it, children will learn about many similarities and differences in cultures.
There is a famous saying that knowledge is power.
We hope that by providing that knowledge, the next generation will feel empowered to have open conversations surrounding race and culture. In turn, they are encouraging understanding, respect and appreciation for not only their own cultures but for others around them too.
Reflections on challenges and rewards
We were new to the world of writing and self-publishing. Everything has been learning for us. We are extremely busy with several other things, so the biggest challenge has been managing our expectations and setting realistic deadlines. Most days, you learn that beauty is in the doing. Little steps every day will eventually get you to that big goal, even when you feel like you do not see the progress.
It’s almost still hard to believe just how far we have come from concept to product and brand, but it is very exciting at the same time. It’s been incredible to see such an overwhelmingly positive response/level of engagement from our early social media content. We are incredibly excited to get our books in our readers’ hands.
Working together as a team
It has been gratifying to be on this journey together. We have been friends for a very long time; however, before Our World My Roots, we had never actually worked together. I think that we both understood the strengths that we both brought to the equation, but what we quickly learned was what parts of the process we preferred and what parts we didn’t. We have been so fortunate that our skill sets complement each other’s, which means that overall we have most bases covered, and neither of us has to compromise on doing anything specific. In many ways, this process has strengthened our friendship, which can only ever be a positive thing.
We have a big vision, along with an ambitious roadmap that looks at adding titles to the series and expanding our range of products.
Eventually, we would love to see a book for every country in the world, so that one day regardless of their country or countries of heritage, anyone can visit our collection and personalise their selection. There is a lot to look forward to.
About the authors
Anna was born in Gweru, Zimbabwe and raised in London along with her older sister. Her Dad is Zimbabwean and Mum, Scottish. Growing up, she had always dreamed of owning her own business but decided to start her career as an Accountant. It wasn’t long before she realised that it was time to follow her dreams, which is when she set up her other business, Boxx. In her spare time, you will find her spending time with family and friends, chasing after her two very energetic children or writing a book or four!
Sharmane was born and raised in London along with her five sisters. Her Dad is Jamaican and Mum, Trinidadian-English. She started life wanting to be a lawyer, but it took her a little while to figure out what she wanted to do with herself. Over the years, she has worked in a number of jobs. Recruitment stuck for a number of years, but she decided to walk away from recruitment finally in order to pursue other passions. In her spare time, you will find her in the boxing gym training hard, spending time with family and friends and planning out life’s next adventure.