Education is always a topic of importance, especially when dealing with the education of your children, and with that whether your child is getting the highest quality of education possible. One children’s book author, and her family would ask this question, and from it would bring about something new, that would empower parents that share the same questions.
Lisa Bowen is the Co-Founder of Real Life Learning Inc. A home schooling advocacy initiative run out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which is also the publication firm for her line of children’s books. The most recently released being Eli’s First Winter Carnival. What sets her books apart from most, is that the main characters, are designed to break stereotypes and the lack of representation that she sees in children’s books.
“To be honest with you my main catalyst was the fact that a lot of the books that I was looking at, none of them reflected my son.” Said Bowen. She continued. “We call them window and mirror books, so very few reflected my son. Very few books reflect my family, and when I did find books that did, they were extremely hard to find.” Though Bowen, an African American, was well aware of book stores in the Greater Toronto Area that catered to books themed around black culture, and characters, the distances that she would have to travel to reach these locations made constant travel to these locations impractical to her for the most part.
“The majority of the time I have to order the books from the states, which is really pricey. And I found that when I did find some of the books, while there was nothing wrong with them, a lot of them were about my kinky hair, or I love my brown skin, which is great, but I was looking for something, a little bit more.” Said Bowen.
For Bowen while these books focused on positive aspects that stood to raise the confidence of children, especially when it came to their identity, she felt it wasn’t enough, and set out to write books featuring characters of colour while still creating an experience, all children could enjoy.
“For me, sometimes I feel like there’s a void, and you have to fill that void yourself. That’s exactly how I came about writing books. Because I want to write books that everyone and anyone can relate to, so if I only write about kinky hair, or the colour of my skin then I’m leaving a certain number of people out. With my books, anyone can enjoy going on a winter carnival, and having fun with your friends, going tobogganing, making snow angels, making snowmen, stuff like that. So it started with me filling a void. ” Said Bowen.
Bowen continues. “On top of that out of all the books out there, 10 percent of the books have diverse characters in them, but we’re right in the background, and out of that 10 percent only 2 percent of us are the main character. That’s not acceptable, it’s really not acceptable. 17 percent of the books out there are about trucks and animals, then there are about people of a diverse culture. We have to do better than that, because I think they were saying like 2024 minorities will be the majority. So that’s exactly what got me into writing books featuring diverse people.”
Bowen goes out of her way to portray a full family dynamic in her stories, even if only including another character in one page, as well as attempting to cultivate children’s true potential, breaking down other stereotypes including gender roles. “I want them to be like my characters in my book, I want Elijah to be characters that kid can look up to, and be like look at the adventure Eli just went on, whether it be he’s a scientist in the book, or even, I’m working on introducing more female characters.” Said Bowen.
In one of Bowen’s upcoming projects she intends on putting a modern twist to an old tale. “I just wrote a book called Greaserella, which is like a spin on Cinderella, but in this book Cinderella is mechanic.” Said Bowen. She continues. “I want to show people, and females that they can do anything, and that they don’t have to fit into the typical female stereotype about always looking very girly, always wearing pretty dresses, and that’s how Greaserella came up. I said to my self, ‘you know what, girls can be mechanics too.’ So far the reception for Eli’s First Winter Carnival has been very positive, with customer reviews listing the book at 5 Stars much to Bowen’s delight to the children’s author who is still new to writing children’s books.
“When the book dropped in November, I wasn’t really sure how the public was going to react to it, but it’s been amazing.” Said Bowen. She continues. “Through that first month, that book hit number one in three different categories on amazon as a Best seller. I was like wow, then when I started to see the comments roll in. I was absolutely amazed because a lot of time an authors will be like to myself ‘let’s be real, a lot of those reviews are from my friends and my family’. Some of those reviews, I don’t know those people. I’m like who is this person? And I’m always wondering how did you come across me, but I love the reviews, because it seems like a lot of these kids are truly enjoying the stories.”
Overall Bowen wants to see kids believe in themselves, and just know that anything is possible, and is I want kids to fall in love with reading and writing again running a short story competition to help push that goal along.
“For the winner of the competition, I will publish their book for them, I will also pay for the illustrations, and it will be their story, they will have it up on Amazon, and all the proceeds will go straight to them.” Said Bowen. She continues. “So it’s my way of just giving back to the community, by paying for all of this, the competition is for kids, ages six to 16, and the deadline to enter is the end of May.”
Lisa Bowen is the Co-Founder of Real Life Learning Inc. Her book publication firm, and advocacy initiative for the home school children.