Serena Minott on the Importance of Diversity in Children’s Books


Looking for More Diversity in Children’s Books? Meet Mompreneur Serena Minott, Founder of Ashima and Creator of the book: The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete Children’s Travel Books

Congrats on launching Ashima! What inspired you to create a business focused on creating more diversity in children’s books? What is your badass Mompreneur story? 

As a child immigrant, and now an adult expatriate, it has always been important for me to know and understand other cultures. From food to languages, I’ve spent nearly my entire life learning how to adapt to different places and the people who live there. When I became a mother, I really wanted to share my love of travel and exploration with my children. So, I started taking them all around the world, visiting and sometimes living in different countries. We’ve seen firsthand how open the world is to children and how much it has to teach them. When I couldn’t find any diversity in children’s books that shared fun information about different places from a child’s perspective, and certainly none with a multicultural lens, I decided to create them. That’s how The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete was born!
Arya and Pete Children's books, Diversity in Children's Books

Where do you live and do you recommend your city as a family travel destination?

We live in Toulouse, France, and for a few months of the year, in Miami, Florida. I absolutely recommend our city as a family travel destination! Toulouse is an amazing city. It’s called La Ville Rose, due to the pinkish hue of the city’s architecture. Toulouse is in southern France, it sits on the Garonne River which runs through the middle of the city, and it’s also home to a picturesque canal system that makes for great walks and bike riding. Toulouse is also less than 2 hours away from the Pyrenees Mountains so there’s always something fun to do.

What’s your insider tip for families coming to your hometown? What are your favorite family-friendly hidden gems?

Toulouse or Miami? 

These are two totally different places! Toulouse has great museums, beautiful garden spaces, tons of shops, and fantastic restaurants. A fun day trip from Toulouse is visiting the medieval castle town of Carcassonne, which is about an hour away. Highly recommended for little ones! 

In Miami, don’t miss Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park (you can rent 4-person bicycles to explore the park and lighthouse) and of course, the beach! It’s world-class and all kids love the beach, right? 

Is family travel part of your life?

Absolutely! If you can’t tell from the diversity in the children’s books that I’ve published, so much so we’ve built an entire business around it, haha! No really, travel is a huge priority for our family and we really embrace the intangible values gained from traveling. Our children are super adaptable in different environments, and they are intrigued by new places, people, foods, languages, and cultures, and I think that’s because we’ve been mindful about exposing them to many different places and experiences from an early age. 

What is the most memorable trip you took with your kids?

I want to think that all of our trips are memorable, but the one that most come to mind is our visit to Morocco a few years ago. My son absolutely loves Africa, so he was super enthused about his first visit to the Continent. We spent several days in Marrakech, and we booked a day tour to the Atlas Mountains and the Agafay Desert. The kids absolutely loved it! Our guides were so kind (like nearly all Moroccans I’ve ever met) and I have such vivid memories of them blasting Berber music from the 4×4 and teaching my son Berber dances in the sunset of the desert. That’s something that will stay with me forever. 

What’s your best advice for traveling parents?

Keep traveling! Even if it’s hard and expensive, and they may not remember everything, keep taking your children to as many different places as possible, it’s so worth it in the long term. 

What is your favorite family travel product or service?

Certainly, AirBnB, what a game changer for family travel! Staying in a home or apartment significantly reduces costs because you can cook your own meals and avoid going out to restaurants except when you really want to. Plus laundry facilities, extra space (including outdoor play spaces when available), and the ability to put the kids to bed and enjoy adult time after lights out is fantastic! 

What item do you always pack in your carry-on?

My laptop (with charger) and cleansing wipes. 

How do you tackle the work/life balance (e.g., daycare, babysitting, school, etc.) as a Mompreneur?

Being a Mompreneur is tough and this is a really tricky balance to maintain. But, I always say I’m a full-time entrepreneur and a full-time mom. However, as much as I enjoy my work, my children come first. They’re this young only for a limited time so I try to prioritize them as much as possible. I’m fortunate to make my own work schedule, so I usually do my heaviest work in the morning when my children are in school. Things are fairly quiet (because I live in France but work in US time zones). Then I work again in the late evening when they’re in bed and the day is still in full swing back in the US. 

What are the advantages of being a Mompreneur while raising children vs. working for an outside entity? Disadvantages?

The biggest upside is the freedom and flexibility that comes with being my own boss. The disadvantage is of course, if I don’t work, we don’t eat. So while we travel a lot, I’m always working during our trips, but I usually allow myself a couple of “free” days, and a full week or two during the summer and winter holidays. 

What’s your shameless plug about Diversity in Children’s Books?

If you’re looking for more diversity in children’s books, The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete in Mexico, is out now! It’s the fourth book in the Aya & Pete travel book series, and it’s so beautifully crafted, I’m really proud of it! It’s now available on our website and also at Nordstrom. As my daughter, Asha says, “get the book and have fun for the rest of your life!!” 😀

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