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Shachi Kaushik: Lighting Up a Culture This Diwali

Oct/03/2022 / by Pratika Yashaswi
diwali

Shachi Kaushik’s new book, “Diwali in My New Home,” brings the festival of light to life for an immigrant community

There’s no end to the work to do with improving diversity in children’s media, especially for storybooks. Children need to be able to see themselves in the characters of the stories they hear and read, at a stage where they’re building their understanding of the world around them.

So we at SEEMA are always excited whenever a new storybook featuring South Asian children comes out. This time we’re reading “Diwali in my New Home” by Shachi Kaushik.

The story is about a girl, Priya, who loves being with family and friends to celebrate Diwali. But Priya and her parents began living in the United States this year, and no one seems to know about the holiday. Priya misses the traditions in India. As she strings lights and creates rangoli art, Priya introduces the festival of lights to her neighbors. And even though the celebration is different this year, it’s still Diwali.

This picture book is for children ages 5-8. It speaks to Indian children’s experiences living abroad when they’ve experienced life in India.

Kaushik was a lawyer before she discovered the joy of telling stories to young children. She then went on to study children’s media and has been creating regularly since then. She is now working on the “Guava Juice Show,” an animated YouTube Original+ Series production.

SEEMA chatted with Shachi about her work and the thrills of children’s storytelling.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What got you into storytelling and children’s media?

I worked as a lawyer back in India. After moving to the United States and starting a new life with my husband in Texas, I realized there was more to life than files and endless hours of litigation. Storytelling began when I volunteered at the Round Rock Public Library in Texas, where I hosted a monthly bilingual storytime for children. Seeing the joy in the children’s faces prompted me to write children’s books, which eventually led to studying the Children’s Media Program at Centennial College, Toronto. Now I work behind the scenes in the animation industry and continue writing my books and creating content for children.

What’s the secret to making children pay attention to stories and activities? Are there any special techniques you use?

I would say the secret is to be present and not shy away from acting, singing, or dancing. Be a performer. While reading, use facial expressions and voice variations to add excitement to the story. Also try asking questions like, “what do you think will happen?” before turning the page. Let the little one’s imagination flow. You can also use puppets or flannel boards. They bring more life to the story. Lastly, try adding a finger play song and some dance moves to get those little ones into the mood.

How have early readers responded to your “Diwali In My New home”? We are asking about reactions from both children and adults.

So far, I’ve received good responses from a few libraries and influencers.

The book is available on the publisher’s website, Beaming Books; Amazon; Barnes and Noble; and Indie Bond. (The book was released September 27).

Tell us about some other projects you’re working on. What are you excited about?

I’m currently working on an animation show, and seeing a script come alive with the animation characters is just amazing. Apart from that, I’ve been exploring more genres in my writing.

Do you have any tips for parents who are trying to get children interested in books?

Here are a few tips:

  1. Make reading a ritual. Take out a few minutes in a day to relax, cuddle and read to your young ones, as it helps in bonding.
  2. Visit the local library. Take your children to the local library. Let them browse through those bookshelves and pick their books.
  3. Include books with diverse characters: Picture books with diverse characters allow children to understand that there are people around the world with different cultures, lives, and experiences than their own.

Diwali in my New Home” has been available from September 27 at AmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository, and IndieBound.