Frustrated because she couldn’t find books that her six-year-old African-American niece could relate to and enjoy, a Chicago-based entrepreneur created a company featuring a library of ebooks whose storylines, characters and uplifting messages mirror the lives, families and communities of Black and Latino children. It is the first time in publishing history that a minority firm has created an interactive digital platform whose offerings are specifically written for multicultural children ages three to eight.
This interactive digital library of eBooks will be published by KaZoom Kids iStory Books, a division of KaZoom Digital Publishing. Award-winning marketer, Donna Beasley, is founder and president.
An official launch of KaZoom Kids iStory Books digital platform will take place on July 16th. Billed as a subscription based service for children’s books, those interested in accessing the books can subscribe starting July 16, 2016 at their website www.KaZoomKidsBooks.com. The library features ten titles; two additional eBooks are offered per month.
According to Beasley, books that depict the multi-cultural experience allow kids of color an opportunity to see themselves reflected positively. Elaborating on the purpose of the company, Beasley said, “Our mission is to bring greater diversity to children’s literature. Our books will engage a child with read-along audio, sound, music, touch and animation.”
With the KaZoom Kids iStory App, each child can read the story or have the story read to them at the touch screen with words highlighted for the read-along option.
Filled with whimsical characters and illustrations that delight, and fascinate, the stories are fun but also touch on multiculturally-sensitive issues like black hair and single parenting. Other stories chronicle inspiring tales of successes.
Educators, parents and children are hailing the series for sparking an early love of reading and learning that could have lifelong benefits. Beasley says this is another positive by-product of the series. “The series helps improve a child’s reading skills by taking advantage of interactive technology,” she declares.
Vera Smith, a teacher at Miles Davis Magnet School, was shocked by the lack of diverse books for her students. Because of this, she often has to create her own materials. She says, “It is important for children to read stories with characters that look like them. It builds their self-esteem and lets them know they are not alone with things they struggle with like bullying. It also shows that they can overcome adversity. Like the characters, it gives them hope that they can achieve their dreams. I am super excited to become one of the first subscribers to KaZoom iStory Books.”
Mrs. Linda Jones, who was part of a focus group when the series was concept tested, said her eight-year-old daughter feels a connection to the characters and is drawn to them. As she reads the stories on the touch screen, she experiences a sense of glee and wonderment.
“Watching my daughter experience sheer joy is so uplifting and touching. She is transformed from being bored to being entertained, engaged, enchanted. We can’t wait for the launch so we can get current titles and the new offerings each month.”
The scarcity of books/ebooks that appeal to children of color is a disturbing reality that Beasley says is anchored in racism and in a failure to value black and brown children.
“If you are an African-American or Latino mother of young children you can seldom find children’s book that reflect your life, family and community,” notes Beasley. “There is a void in the publishing industry for multicultural children’s books. It is a startling fact that in 2014 only 5% of children’s literature included children of color. Yet our public school systems serve 40 percent Black and Latino students. This is a similar demographic in urban centers nationwide.”
She sees the digital ebooks – and other similarly-inspired efforts – as part of a universal solution to the problem of children of color losing interest in school and experiencing failure in life.
A veteran marketer, Beasley drew from her vast experience in advertising, marketing and publishing to bring the company to life. Plying her years of creative contacts, she reached out to the Chicago community and asked for help to develop the books.
“Writers, illustrators and book designers of all ages and ability levels answered the call to make a difference in the diversity of children’s books. Over half of our ibooks are by first time authors. We take great pride in opening up this industry to new and diverse talent. Our goal is to make these books entertaining and enriching for our young readers. We are absolutely thrilled and delighted about this product launch. We believe every child should see themselves and their community in a book. Our books help children grow up proud.”
For more information including how to subscribe to the series, log on to wwww.kazoomkidsbooks.com. Subscriptions open July 16th.