My name is Bunmi Emenanjo and I am so excited to be a part of this amazing community of world travelers and culture seekers! I was born in the United States but grew up in Nigeria and I have been fortunate to travel to different parts of the world from Iceland to Lesotho. Solo travel is my JAM! Wandering aimlessly through local streets, sitting in a local cafe while people watching and reading, tasting all the food, and striking up conversations with locals are some of my favorite things about traveling.
I also LOVE books! I was that kid in school with the coke-bottle glasses with my head always buried in a book, sometimes hidden in the middle of my textbook in class. One of my life goals is to publish at least one book.
Growing a love for reading
I suppose it makes sense then that as a booklover and culture seeker, I founded Atlas Book Club, a subscription box company focused on globally diverse children’s books. When I was about ten years old I picked up my first copy of Famous Five by Enid Blyton. I was transported into this English world full of adventure, mystery, and family, complete with English tea and biscuits. And I. Was. Hooked! I eagerly awaited the availability of the next book in the series, as they were passed down from friends who were fortunate enough to have access to these books
Growing up in Nigeria, I read everything from teen mystery to Shakespeare, The Arabian Nights and the occasional Danielle Steel novel! I was a sponge and I devoured every book I could get my hands on. Books were my window out to the world and I was so fortunate to be exposed to different types of books. While we couldn’t afford to travel outside of the country, I traveled every time I opened a copy of The Taming of the Shrew, The Adventures of TinTin, or Nancy Drew. These books fueled my imagination and allowed me to dream of visiting those places someday!
I was also able to see myself in many of the books I read, as my parents exposed my brothers and me to the works of great African writers such as Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. Such books served as literary mirrors during my childhood! Exposure to these “mirror” books was extremely important in developing my sense of self and identity.
A New Type Of Book Club Is Born
Fast-forward to 2016, when we moved with our three kids, now ages 13, 11, and 9, from a very diverse neighborhood to our current home. While our current neighborhood is lovely and the school is great, it was not very diverse. As a Nigerian-American, I wanted my kids to continue to develop their knowledge of their African heritage and I wanted them to explore other world cultures. This desire led me to start Atlas Book Club in our home in 2017. Starting with a small group that included my kids and those of a few friends, I selected a book set in a different country every month. The kids read the book and then met to discuss it. I saw first-hand how this experience resonated with children from global backgrounds who could see themselves represented in the books and learn about other cultures. I also saw how these globally-diverse books resonated with kids in their school when I read a book from our library as a guest reader.
Kids of all backgrounds were transported to different parts of the world through the book selections. I learned from this experience that kids are yearning to explore cultures different from theirs! This led me to launch Atlas Book Club as a business in November 2019. Since launching last year, we have explored 20 countries including South Africa, Guatemala, the Philippines, Nigeria, Haiti, India, Chile, Aboriginal stories of Australia, and so much more.
I founded Atlas Book Club because I believe that every child, including my three kids, should have the experience that I had growing up: to see themselves represented in the books that they read and have opportunities to be transported to other parts of the world through books! Our core belief is that children who are exposed to other cultures develop a global awareness that allows them to be more empathetic, compassionate, and to celebrate cultures different from their own. Children who see themselves represented in books will develop a strong sense of self and identity. Studies have shown it is important to expose children, starting at a young age, to cultural and global diversity. The benefits include: teaches to work with others from different backgrounds, helps to counter discriminatory stereotypes, increases knowledge of history and understanding of world cultures, and prepares students to be global citizens for an increasingly globally diverse workforce. I’m probably preaching to the choir here!
Our mission is threefold:
- To help children of all backgrounds see themselves in the books that they read.
- To help children travel to different parts of the world and experience world cultures.
- To help shatter “the single story” and stereotypes by featuring stories that show diversity within cultures.
Here is how our subscription works: every month we send out an Atlas Box themed after a different country. Each box contains an age-appropriate book, a fun facts card, a bookmark, a postcard, a map poster for tracking countries explored, and a culturally relevant souvenir. These items assist to immerse the child in the culture of the country featured in an intentional manner. We have four age groups for varying reading levels, ranging from picture books to young adult novels. You can learn more at www.atlasbookclub.com.
I look forward to continuing to share resources with the Bébé Voyage community about globally diverse books, how to build your own globally diverse children’s library, highlighting the diversity that exists within cultures and so many other topics.
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