Jambo Books offers monthly children’s book subscription to spread multicultural stories
After Mijha and Runako Godfrey had their first daughter, Mijha’s father-in-law gave her a mail subscription to Dr. Seuss books – the classics. Though, as Mihja put it, the nature of the publishing industry makes it so that “we have to seek out new classics.”
“When you’re reading a book that, according to all of the pictures, is supposed to take place somewhere in the Middle East and every person is white,” Mijha said, “you’re just a little bit, like, that’s not what the world is really like.”
So, the Godfreys began their search for different children’s books.
One of the first books Mijha and Runako Godfrey came across starring a child of color is called “I Like Myself.” The book hit home for their family after their oldest daughter made a comment to her mom: “She looks like me.”
“It’s very touching for me to have an experience where my daughter says, ‘Oh, this little girl has hair like me. She looks like me. She’s brown like me. Her mom is brown like you,’” Mijha said. “We didn’t have that growing up, so that was really great.
“Once we started finding these books, we said, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if somebody would just send these to our door?’”
So the Godfreys decided to open a new business.
Mijha and Runako started Jambo Books in Decatur about a year ago, a book company that sends two children’s books to subscribers each month.
Mijha is a former corporate attorney from New York, and Runako owns his own software company and does some consulting. For Mijha, Jambo Books has been her call to social justice work in her time away from practicing law.
“The reason that I got into law in the first place was because I’ve always been kind of obsessed with social justice and racial reconciliation and healing,” she said. “I’m looking at Jambo as an opportunity to be a part of the conversation of people who are trying to build the Beloved Community.”
Of course, they’re not mailing the classic Dr. Seuss books to a doorstep. Jambo Books sends books that star children of color, geared toward kids between the ages of 0 and 9.
As Mijha puts it, Jambo Books aims to highlight what unites people rather than what separates them through literature, such as “seeing something like Maria doesn’t just celebrate Día de los Muertos, she also daydreams of fairies and dragons.”
“It was important to us that children of color be able to see themselves in all environments so that they know that they belong everywhere, and that their lives are valid and they should be treasured,” Mijha said.
Erin Littles has been a subscriber of Jambo Books since May 2018 after she, too, found it challenging to find children’s books with positive experiences for families of color.
“Many books about families of color tend to focus on historical issues but rarely do they present stories of kids just being kids,” Littles said. “Jambo takes some of the work out of it for me and provides my family with a monthly treat of multicultural books that are relatable for my children. It helps us to show our children that they are represented in books and exposes them to other cultures as well.”
Jambo Books doesn’t want to solely influence the education for children of color, though. Mijha said that they wish for all children to read these books to instill an “expectation of diversity” in all environments.
For Jane Bradshaw and her 4-year-old son, one of the household favorites is “Lucia the Luchadora” by Cynthia Leonor Garza, a book that Bradshaw said she would’ve never known about if it hadn’t shown up on her doorstep.
Bradshaw has been a subscriber since Jambo Books first started off, supporting the effort to give all voices a platform.
“I am raising a white boy and I want him to know that his perspective is one of many and that the voices and experiences of people of color are just as important,” Bradshaw said. “A better America starts with educating our youth about the vast array of ways to live and one way to do that is by reading books featuring children of color in non-stereotypical settings.”
So, in terms of bridging the gap between all families and their children, the Godfreys decided to start with children’s books as a way “to meet people where they are.”
“I think children’s books are a very noninvasive way of introducing people to the concepts of reconciliation, redemption, and love,” Mijha said.
However, the mission of Jambo Books doesn’t stop at what’s inside of the book box when it arrives on a doorstep. Each monthly subscription arrives in a JambArt box, which is decorated in art sourced from artists that uplift children of color, such as a depiction of a diverse classroom with a black male teacher.
Runako sees a better future by reading kids these books now.
“When Jambo Books succeeds, the long-term result will be more understanding adults,” Runako said. “We won’t be as divided, so our communities will be stronger. It’s really important to contribute anything we can to that better future.”
To learn more or subscribe, check out Jambo Books by clicking here.