Kids Corner

Kids' Corner

My First Sikh Books

Book Review by SAPREET KAUR SALUJA



MY FIRST SIKH BOOKS, by Parveen Kaur Dhillon. Illustrated by Brian C. Krumm. Lohgarh Sikh Educational Foundation, U.S.A., 2011. Set of 2 hard-cover full color board books; 2 coloring books and a glossary. $14.95. ISBN # 978-0-9822446-0-9.

 

When I learned that I was pregnant with my son, and before my husband and I told a soul, I went and bought his first board book. I couldn’t wait to read some of my childhood favorites to our son.

Now that he is seventeen months old, we spend hours everyday exploring the world of Dr. Seuss, animals, colors, shapes and languages. He has books on animal families, the alphabet, counting, Punjabi, vehicles, emotions, children, even the New York City subway.

And yet I always wished there was a book with a character that looked just like him.

Thanks to Parveen Kaur's "My First Sikh Books", my son’s board book library is now complete.

This packaged set of two board books and two coloring books in a fun carrying case for kids is spectacular. The images are contemporary and fresh. The colors are vibrant. The books have the same weighty feel in our hands and the same glossy finish as all of our other story-time favorites.

The kids look like the kids we see everyday at the playground, at school and in the neighborhood. But these books are extra special because they, unlike any other board books we have, show Sikh kids as part of the fabric of North American society - and of other communities in the diaspora. They are the reflection of our everyday reality.

And the message of having pride in being a Sikh is pitch perfect for our little one. I love it when we get to the page about the karra. He points from the karra on the character in the book to his own karra and then to my karra.

Looking forward, I’m thrilled to have a book we can read together as we prepare, down the line, for him to start wearing a patka.

These are also the perfect books for him to read with his grandparents. They are exactly the sort of books my Mom and Dad wished were around when we were young.

I hear from my friends that coloring will soon become an obsession for my son. I really appreciate that this boxed set can continue to be relevant as my child grows, unlike the heaps of toys we continuously have to pack and put away as he outgrows them. I can imagine him coloring and then even practicing drawing the images himself as he grows older.

When my son is ready for kindergarten and its time for my husband and I to do a presentation on Sikhi to his class, as my parents did for me, you better believe I will have these books in hand. The coloring books in particular provide the perfect hands-on activity to do with the kids after sharing the basics of Sikhi with them.

As someone who has long been involved in the Girl Scout movement and girls empowerment, I’m thrilled the box set includes a book focused on girls as well as a book focused on boys. As a community, we speak with great pride about gender equality in Sikhi and this set actually manages a balanced approach. I see the girl with her braids bouncing as she runs and I think back to my own childhood and how much I would have loved to see a girl in a book who was my reflection. Now my nieces have that
opportunity.

As I work on behalf of the panth to protect the Sikh identity so that all Sikhs are supported in practicing their faith fearlessly, I’m so thrilled we have a resource like this to instill pride in our children. As a parent who was born and raised in the U.S. and now raising my son here, "My First Sikh Books" are exactly what I have been looking for.

 

Sapreet Kaur Saluja is the Executive Director of The Sikh Coalition, Vice Chair of the board of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, and a member of the National Organization of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.

My First Sikh Book set is available on www.Lohgarh.org

October 14, 2011

Conversation about this article

1: Karamjit Kaur (Illinois, U.S.A.), October 14, 2011, 10:48 AM.

These appear to be wonderful books - just what we need for our children. Congratulations to the author, illustrator and publishers for these wonderful creations. We need more of these ... and in a hurry! On a slightly different note, though, I have serious concerns over at least two troubling errors I can spot on this very page. The child holding the Kaur book at the top of the page is not wearing a karra - one of the Five Kakkaars! I though this was meant to be a set of "first" books introducing our children to ... yes, Sikhi! This is not a trivial oversight, I'm afraid. While you do a lot of good through these books, you are also helping entrench things in the little minds which will haunt parents and the community in the future. The second thing I am shocked over is the use of the name "Dhillon" by the author, and "Saluja" by the reviewer - while dealing with books that are meant to influence the nascent minds of our children! I am sorry, but I think these are serious infractions even though you might have overlooked them as trivialities or non-issues. I know you mean well - it is obvious that these books are products of a labour of love. But children's writing and publishing is not for amateurs ... sadly, it has been so in our community for too long. Both of you seem to be very competent professionals, but if you have been careless on these two examples - are there more? - I would suggest you seek professional help from fully-trained Sikh child educators for your next publications to ensure you don't take two steps forward and two steps back at the same time, each time you do something like this. You need to understand the full seriousness of shaping children's minds ... each little detail does matter, especially when each book has very few words, very few pictures. Hope you'll take this criticism in the spirit in which it is offered, not get defensive over it by conjuring up justifications ... and act to correct the error IMMEDIATELY.

2: Parminder Kaur Dhillon (Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S.A.), October 14, 2011, 10:52 AM.

So proud of Parveen Kaur to have come up with the idea and seen it through. I know Parveen has been so busy raising her three lovely kids, but I am so glad she found time to fulfill her dream to write the books. I hope she will continue writing books for children. I love the set. Sapreet Kaur, you are so right, this is a must for every Sikh Kids' library. It is also a great gift, not just for Sikh kids but also for their friends, for school libraries and public libraries. If you have not seen the set yet, order yours from www.lohgarh.org.

3: Ravina Dhillon (Sacramento, California, U.S.A.), October 14, 2011, 11:38 AM.

Now our children have an Asian hue. I pray for our children's literature to depict kids with the same skin color as ours.

4: Raj (U.S.A.), October 14, 2011, 12:20 PM.

I don't have kids, but I was once one not too long ago :) My library didn't go beyond the "western classics" and something like these books would have been a welcome change for me. As I look forward to having kids of my own now, I'm excited to see that there are wonderful resources like this that will be available to them. Thanks for the hard work, Parveen, and I hope that other writers/ artists are encouraged and inspired to create content like this.

5: Gurkanwal Singh (Washington, D.C., U.S.A.), October 14, 2011, 1:09 PM.

These books are excellent and we definitely need more of them. Sikh authors and the books they write directly result in Sikh beliefs and history being related properly for future generations. This is especially true when it comes to books written for children as what they learn from them will stay with them. And we need more of such books as our children today are mostly exposed to western children books throughout their lives. So you did a wonderful job, Parveen. You have tremendously helped the Sikh community with this contribution and I hope you inspire others to do the same.

6: I.J. Singh (New York, U.S.A.), October 14, 2011, 1:17 PM.

Fantastic. Sounds great and like just what we need.

7: Hardy Singh  (London, United Kingdom), October 14, 2011, 2:56 PM.

I agree with all of the above. And I do wish the self-demeaning caste names were kept out and the little details attended to. You can't make such mistakes when dealing with children.

8: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), October 14, 2011, 3:50 PM.

Our books need to be consistent with Sikh values. Moreover, they will do little without parental involvement and support, on a daily basis, in the children's lives on the very issues the books touch upon.

9: Gurpreet Singh (Fremont, California, U.S.A.), October 14, 2011, 4:48 PM.

I bought these books for my 2 young daughters. The message in the book is STRONG! It shares the Sikh values that I want to teach my 4 and 7 year old girls. My daughters were represented and the author cared enough to include the Kaurs instead of only focusing on the Singhs. My daughters love the coloring books and feel so proud when they show these books to others. It is beautiful to see my older daughter reading the book to my younger daughter. They even read "My First Singh Book' with so much excitement. I sincerely would like to thank you for creating something so unique (and cute) and hope you continue helping young Sikh families with such enriching resources! Thank you ... keep the great work!

10: Preeti Chadha (San Jose, California, U.S.A), October 14, 2011, 10:10 PM.

As a 1st grade teacher, I think these books are perfect for the audience they are targeting. I ordered these books a few weeks ago and immediately ordered more to give as gifts. The quality of these books is far better than anything else I have seen made for our community. I also like the fact that the children will be able to relate and connect to the Sikh characters in the book in a positive manner. My children are older, but I know that they would have loved them if these books were around when they were younger. The message of the book is clear, be a strong, proud Sikh and always remember the Almighty Waheguru. These books are perfect for bedtime reading for young ones.

11: Lakhmir Singh (New Delhi, India), October 15, 2011, 5:58 AM.

For all the hard work, passion and commitment you have put into this beautiful and important venture, all the more reason there is no excuse for the carelessness you have shown in the little details pointed out by Karamjit Kaur ji. These little things need no money, no time, no expertise, in being tended to. Just due diligence. There's simply no excuse for such negligence. These comments are not meant to discourage you. Far from it. They are meant to drive home the importance of what you are doing, and how imperative it is that you treat it like any other professional venture, and not a hobby or a mere 'fun' project.

12: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.), October 18, 2011, 8:06 AM.

I am so excited about this book and can't wait to get my copy for my little princess. Thank you so much for creating them as board books since my little one still likes to chew on them. But most importantly a big thanks for focusing on our little girls. We have so long suffered a lack of such quality resources that our children can relate to and it is euphoric to know that such endeavors are starting to materialize. I can only imagine the amount of thought, work, and money that went into creating these. From the review and the credentials of the reviewer, I can tell the quality is going to be amazing.

13: Manpreet Kaur (San Ramon, California, U.S.A.), October 21, 2011, 11:37 AM.

I ordered this set for my nephew and niece, ages 4 and 2. They loved them! The books are well written, beautifully illustrated and age-appropriate. They introduce the topic of what it means to be a Sikh in a fun and creative way without being preachy. It is wonderful that Sikh kids can now have characters they can relate to in books.

14: Harliv Kaur (San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A.), November 13, 2011, 1:51 PM.

Parveen Kaur ji, congratulations! We need wonderful resources like this set you've created. The entire Kikli team wishes you much success.

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