It's story time at school, and a curious girl named Harini is sharing her family's traditions for Diwali, the festival of lights, only to learn that she's not the only one in her class who celebrates the holiday.
That's the premise of "Let's Celebrate Diwali," a new children's book written by teacher-author Anjali Joshi and illustrated by Tim Palin that is helping kids learn about the different Diwali traditions celebrated across the globe.
“We really wanted to focus on the fact that there is more than one religion that celebrates the holiday,” Sailaja N. Joshi, founder and CEO of publishing company Bharat Babies, which is publishing the book, told NBC News. “If you Google Diwali, you’ll see a Hindu holiday ... but it’s also celebrated by Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists.”
The children’s book continues to follow the character of Harini, who made her debut in Bharat Babies’ flagship book, “Hanuman and the Orange Sun.”
“While different faiths celebrate the holiday, there are a lot of similarities. It’s a phenomenal story that helps highlight pluralistic ideals of this holiday that I don’t think gets seen very often,” Joshi said.
This year, Diwali falls on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016. To mark the week-long festivities leading up to the holiday, Bharat Babies — in partnership with South Asian mom bloggers — have launched a social media campaign, #MyDiwaliStory, to inspire those who celebrate the festival to share their favorite memories and Diwali traditions. (Winners will receive a copy of “Let’s Celebrate Diwali” as well as one of five illustrated books from Bharat Babies’ library).
“Diwali is such an amazing time of year and when you’re part of the South Asian diaspora you can lose that feeling, so we wanted to find a way to garner momentum around that and celebrate it across all of these mom blogging communities and draw in different readers and hear their stories,” Joshi said, stressing the importance of giving children the opportunity to read and hear diverse stories.
“In this political climate, giving our children the opportunity to hear diverse stories and to see diverse characters allows them to connect with different communities outside of the classroom and outside of these books,” Joshi added.
Bharat Babies currently carries seven books across three product categories, according to Joshi, who first launched the publishing company nearly two years ago.
The company's other titles include “Padmini is Powerful,” — recently listed on Elle’s “How to Build a Feminist Library for Your Baby — and “Ganesh and the Little Mouse” and “Amal’s Eid.”
Joshi said she’s excited about the Diwali season because it gives the publishing company an opportunity to help children see themselves reflected in books.
“I love this time of year because we really get an opportunity to talk about not just our mission, but our real hope that these stories can connect with not just South Asian children, but children all across the globe," she said. "And that’s what we see: It’s not just South Asians who love our stories.”