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Author Spotlight: 'My First Sikh Books' by Parveen Kaur Dhillon

image from ecx.images-amazon.comParveen Kaur Dhillon is the author of a new series of multicultural books for young Sikh children titled My First Sikh Books.

This is a unique set of 2 board books (My First Singh Book and My First Kaur Book) and 2 accompanying coloring books all packaged together with a glossary and “About Sikhs” insert in a carry case for young children.

The books were developed to instill pride and confidence in young Sikh children.

Parveen Kaur Dhillon is a U.S. born Sikh and the mother of three young children. She has a Masters in Education from the University of Virginia and a BA in History from Loyola University.

She actively promotes efforts to develop resources to help increase awareness of Sikh community issues among mainstream American audiences as well as builds solidarity within the Sikh diaspora in America.

Derek Baird: What was your motivation for writing multicultural book that focus on Sikh children?

Parveen Dhillon:  When my now 10 year old son was just a few months old, I found myself reading to him all the time. Because my son was going to wear a patka (boy’s version of the turban) I wanted him to see kids in books wearing them too. So that he would feel comfortable and proud of his image. 

I began authoring home-made multicultural books with images of Sikh boys and girls, so that he could see kids that looked similar to him in the stories I was relating.

DB: What universal lessons can Sikh and non-Sikh children learn from these books?   

PD:   These books have the same universal message parents and teachers instill in their children on a daily basis: treating people with respect, sharing and helping others. The only difference in my books is that Sikh images, examples and vocabulary are used.

DB: I recently read Simran Jeet Singh’s op-ed piece in the Huffington Post who talked about his identity crisis as a young Sikh American trying to figure out where he “fit” in society. Could you briefly talk about some of the challenges Sikh children face and how you feel your books can  help them navigate these two, sometimes conflicting, worlds?

PD:   As part of our faith we do not cut our hair. Sikh boys and sometimes Sikh girls wear turbans to cover their long hair. Because of their turbans they stand out.

Therefore, it is important that Sikh children be able to explain to their friends and the communities they live in how their core values are the same as those of the communities they live in.  My books utilize simple concepts and examples that help children and their parents communicate these ideals.

DB: This is a two book series--one for boys and one for girls. What was your thought process behind breaking this out into two different books?

PD:  Boys and girls have a unique visual identity and often face very different opportunities at a young age.  By giving them gender-specific examples, I feel that these books highlight the unique experiences of Sikh boys and girls in ways that strengthen their confidence.

I have included them together in the package so that each gender can relate and understand the perspective of the other gender.  

DB: What sort of reception have your books received from the Sikh and non-Sikh community?

PD: I have been overwhelmed by the support and recognition that my books have received from the parents of young children within my community as well as from teachers and school administrators. The simple messages and highly visual medium of the book allows parents and teachers to discuss important topics with kids in a unique manner.

These books are a great tool to introduce and discuss concepts such as recycling, having fundraisers, helping others and being proud and comfortable of who you are.

DB: As an independent author, how are you embracing social media and word of mouth (WOM) marketing strategies to get the word out about your books?

PD:  While I have been working on these books for some time, it is only now with the advent of Facebook and YouTube that distribution for a small independent publication like this is truly feasible.  While we are still finding the most effective ways to leverage these resources, our Facebook Page and initial videos of kids reading the books have really helped us get the word out.

DB: What advice to you have for other author’s looking to break into the indie children’s book market without the support of the big publishing companies?

PD: Self-publishing is a challenge, but now it has become easier than ever.  With many new online resources, competition among publishers on price and service really helps the author make challenging decision about digital versus printed publication and new ways to get products to market.  I think it has become easier for authors trying to publish independent books

DB: You close your books with an illustration of the “ek ongkar.” What does this symbol represent?

PD:  Equality – the Universal Message.  It is the Sikh symbol which means “God is one”.    We may pray differently and have different names for our religion, but we all believe that there is a higher power.

Parveen Dhillion’s books are available on Amazon or via http://lohgarh.org/

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