Every night, Mijha and Runako Godfrey read a bedtime story to their daughters, ages five and eight, before tucking them in, taking extra care to bring them diverse characters. For years, Mijha searched for better representation across gender lines and life experiences, relying on recommendations from friends and endless scrolling through Amazon. The Godfreys use the stories to start conversations with their children about racial reconciliation and healing and thought other families might do the same, so, two years ago, they started a subscription service to share their finds.
Jambo Books—jambo means “hello” in Swahili—is a Decatur-based company that introduces children to a more inclusive set of heroes. Each box contains two or three books with main characters who are people of color, with story arcs often centering on self-confidence and empathy, all vetted by Mijha.
“Kids need to know that they belong right here and that they can be successful right here,” says Mijha. “Kids need to see themselves reflected everywhere, and they need to know that you can bloom right here where you’re planted.”
Subscriptions are available for children up to 13 years old, with prices ranging from $35 (one month) to $350 (one year).
Your Name Is a Song
Main Character Kora-Jalimuso
Author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
Illustrator Luisa Uribe
Overwhelmed by teachers and peers mispronouncing her name, Kora-Jalimuso learns the melodic patterns of names from other cultures. Ages 5-10
First Laugh: Welcome, Baby!
Main Character “Baby”
Author Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood
Illustrator Jonathan Nelson
The first family member to make their new baby laugh will host a traditional Navajo First Laugh Ceremony. Ages 2-5
Main Character Harper Raine
Author Ellen Oh
Illustrator Matt Rockefeller
As the Raine family settles into their new home, Harper races to save her brother from an evil spirit attempting to possess him. Ages 8-12
Rocket Says Look Up!
Main Character Rocket
Author Nathan Bryon
Illustrator Dapo Adeola
An aspiring astronaut, Rocket attempts to get her community to pause their everyday routines and spend the night stargazing. Ages 3-7
Uncle Peter’s Amazing Chinese Wedding
Main Character Jenny
Author Lenore Look
Illustrator Yumi Heo
Jenny resents her uncle’s upcoming wedding because she fears she’ll no longer be his favorite person. Ages 4-8
Welcome to the Party
Main Character “Baby”
Author Gabrielle Union
Illustrator Ashley Evans
Actress Gabrielle Union writes a love letter on behalf of all families, traditional and nontraditional, welcoming a new life. Ages 4-8
This article appears in our November 2020 issue.