One of my earliest memories from my childhood included my dad reading Amar Chitra Katha books while I fell asleep. It allowed me to learn more about my culture while learning about the stories of important cultural figures. I read stories about the Hindu gods and goddesses and funny stories like Panchatantra and Akbar and Birbal. These stories allowed my imagination to run wild, and I learned more and more about where I come from from those books but now when looking at the new generation of kids.
Many parents struggle to find ways to keep their kids engaged with their culture or don’t know how to navigate culture with their kids. Sunita Shah had another idea when it came to her son asking questions about Hinduism. Sunita realized that there weren’t many books that helped educate young kids about Hindu culture, so Jai Jai’s was born.
With her passion for Hinduism and being one of the world’s leading figures in Speech and Language, Sunita took it into her own hands to create a way for young Indian kids to learn more about their culture the world. The Jai Jai’s is a platform that allows the youth to learn more about Hindu festivals (Diwali and Holi). The books also talk about different gods and goddesses like Hanuman and learning about the Ramayana and other epics. The Jai Jai’s also brings a unique perspective to getting kids excited about learning about Hindu culture when introducing books that help kids learn the Hanuman Chalisa and learn the Gayatri Mantra.
The books range from 0-2 years, 2-4 years, 4-6 years, and 6 years+. This allows for kids of different ages to connect to the culture regardless of their age. The books are designed to keep kids engaged. The books are full of colorful drawings that keep kids excited and get their full attention while reading, and it’s also fun and easy to read. Jai’s also incorporates puzzles and yoga! Get your Jai Jai’s book for you or a loved one today.
Interview with Sunita Shah: Founder of The Jai Jai’s
1.) What’s the inspiration behind starting Jai Jai’s
Growing up as a child, I was such a bookworm and loved books…our house is full of books. A storytime, especially at bedtime, is still a treasured time of the day with my boys aged eight and four years. They love mummy’s make-up stories. In my son’s room was our Hindu temple (mandir); when Syon, my eldest, was two, he would start talking about the elephant god, the monkey god, and the powerful fork “Trishul” of Lord Shiva, which he thought was like King Triton (from little mermaid’s trident!). I would make up stories from what I remember my grandfather (who was 100 years old and passed away last year at the great age of 101 years) and what my mother taught me, but it was never enough! When I got my old books out, he was so young he became a little scared. The language and pictures were too advanced for his age. That’s when I decided to write my own. I wanted to develop books that were suitable for his age, with relatable and age-appropriate images.
I have been a practicing speech and language therapist for over 20 years. I harnessed the knowledge and skills of children’s speech and language developmental norms. I used these stages and milestones to create this series of books. We start from birth with the baby Jai Jais; we have the main series, a festival series, and a legends collection for children 12 years and beyond. Even adults are learning too. The book is developed with the appropriate length of utterance, vocabulary, and comprehension level, with images that are fun and modern for children to fall in love with and want to find out more. We started in 2015, and now in 2021, we have 20 titles and a set of Yoga cards. The Jai Jais grow as your child does.
2.) How has this changed your life?
What has been amazing about the journey of creating The Jai Jais is the wonderful testimonials that I have received from parents and children. It has been magical how they have brought The Jai Jais into their home and hearts. Knowing what I have created makes our children engage with our religion, giving it a fun, modern, and vibrant form to keep the stories and symbolism alive. Also, understanding the meeting behind rituals, symbols, and festivals.
What has been fascinating is how the books have bridged gaps. Seeing children having something in common to share with their grandparents and even great grandparents. It was a life-changing moment seeing my 100-year-old grandfather sit with my son for hours reading the books, laughing, playing and chatting, even doing some acting! Watching children of all diversities learn about Hinduism and relating to the gods and goddesses’ qualities and embracing Hinduism. I never realized the impact of what I created. It has changed my life to want to answer the “why” and “what” questions that children and adults have about certain rituals, stories, and practices that are so ancient but have powerful meanings and symbols.
It has given me the thirst to learn more. Creating The Jai Jai’s and the blogs and social media posts, I am learning so much and feel honored to respond from families sharing this knowledge. It makes me realize how much I do not know about Hindu Dharma and how much to learn. Each day I am learning something different, which gives me so much joy. I feel so much pleasure and happiness in what I do.
3.) What are some of your favorite Jai Jai books or mythological stories?
I have to say I have two favorites!! The first is the baby books, which is so exciting as my business partner James Ballance, who is also the company illustrator, has transformed our Hindu deities into cute and loveable images from children enjoy from a very young age. Starting their journey from birth with key vocabulary to learn about Hinduism. I have just fallen in love with these! A shame my boys were older when they were released, but they still love them!
Last year we released The Hanuman Chalisa for Children. I have been listening to the Hanuman Chalisa from a very young. It was only until we started to write the book over 40 years that I truly understood the epic Chalisa and the devotion to Lord Hanuman, a very popular Hindu God. I was surprised at how many people listen to it. Not just children but adults have embraced the book and can understand the meaning and teachings behind the Hanuman Chalisa’s ancient text. James has transformed the Chalisa with the most stunning and spectacular imagery.
4.) What are your upcoming goals for The Jai Jai’s
The Jai Jais is also a publishing house, and we how important our Children’s mental health is, especially in this climate. We have collaborated with a very talented lady who wrote a book that we will be releasing in April to support Children’s inner voices. We want to extend this supporting Children’s well-being.
We want to continue our journey to bring more stories and information to children on the Hindu deities in an enchanting way.
Children and families have fallen in love with our iconography of the deities, and we have developed art, puzzles, and products for them to bring the Jai Jais into their home. We want to bring children stories and products that they can pass onto the next generation.
5.) What does being Indian mean to you?
Wow, where do I start!!! I could sum it up in a few words, family, food, a spirited and zesty approach to life. Full of love and color and unity. It gives me a sense of belonging and pride. The rich culture and vibrancy of ancient traditions have lived on for millions of years. Something I know my children have embraced through these books too.
Being bilingual and being able to speak any language, what a fabulous skill! And bilingualism has so many benefits. I am the National UK Advisor under The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy, and one of my roles is to support practitioners, promoting and supporting bilingual children.
For more follow @thejaijais