Amazing Dad Writes Children’s Book For His Daughter Who Didn’t Feel Represented In What She Read

For many parents raising young children, books are an integral part of their learning and development. Along with reading and comprehension skills comes their ability to recognize images and concepts that can help them shape their own ideas and identity in the world. So what happens when a majority of books a child reads is devoid of characters and story lines they don’t feel part of in any way?

As you’ll see in the case of Jerry Zhang and his daughter Madison, it means a young girl uttering self-loathing statements simply because she didn’t feel normal among all the images and characters who looked nothing like her. Jerry is a New York-based lawyer who has two daughters aged 4 and 1, the oldest being Madison.

Jerry created a children’s book called ‘Pepper Zhang: Artist Extraordinaire’ for his daughter after she expressed that she “didn’t want to be Chinese”, simply because most of the books she was reading didn’t feature any main female characters who looked like her.

The empathetic father knew he had to do something about it, and came up with the idea of writing his own book that solved the representation problem. He launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $5000, and ended up raising over $30,000!

On the campaign page, Jerry explains why he felt this project was necessary not just for his own daughter, but other young readers who may feel the same.

“It happened during a period when she was obsessed with the book characters Madeline and Eloise. She kept asking me why she was Chinese and they weren’t, and whether she can have blonde or red hair like they do. This prompted me to look for books with Asian characters for Madison to be exposed to; the few I managed to find were heavily cultural, and Madison didn’t connect with any of the characters in them. That’s when she told me she didn’t want to be Chinese anymore, and it broke my heart,” he said.

“​While it’s important for children to learn about their cultures through books, it’s equally important for Asian children to see themselves represented in books as interesting and smart individuals rather than just products of their cultures. I created the character Pepper Zhang, initially as a cool and fun character for Madison to identify with. I then quickly realized that other children can benefit from Pepper just as much as Madison did, and a character like Pepper currently doesn’t exist in the world of children’s books in the U.S.,” he added.

The project launched with one initial book, but Jerry hopes to turn this into a series of books that will inspire and excite readers to know they belong in the world. He envisions seeing the ‘Pepper Zhang’ books in schools, libraries, book stores and homes of children all across America, as clearly there is a huge gap between the media being produced and absorbed by children, and the diversity that exists in the country.

“In 2016, out of 3,200 children’s books published in the United States, only 7% featured Asian children – yet there are 17 million Asian Americans in this country,” he said.

Self-publishing was the most viable way to ensure the book stayed true to its core mission, Jerry added in his campaign description. Together with the help of artist Trisha Hautea, he said wanted the success of the campaign to be a direct comeback to those who may think books about diversity don’t sell. Judging by the amount of funds he raised and interested backers of the campaign, he is well on his way with this important message.

The story centers around the brave, bold young protagonist Pepper, who is trying to win a battle with her parents so that she doesn’t have to go to bed. Along the way, she discovers her love of painting and art and uses these to express her emotions. Jerry plans to have the book completed in time to ship to first the campaign backers by September 2017.

In an interview with Upworthy about ‘Pepper Zhang’, this amazing dad says he can already see the impact the book is having on his daughter Madison.

“Madison recently started express[ing] an interest in learning Chinese, so I’m very excited about that. I definitely think the whole project has made a big impact on her — after all, Pepper Zhang is inspired by her!” he said.

We love supporting and promoting children’s books that go beyond traditional boundaries and enable a generation of young minds to be inspired in new ways. Books like ‘Ole Tangerine Man’, a story about bullying and kids standing up for each other, ‘Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls’, a series of profiles of real life badass women that young girls can be exposed to from an early age, and ‘Feminist Baby’, which is a series of cute but impactful cartoons teaching kids about basic gender equality concepts, are going to raise a generation of youth to be empowered.

Oh to be a child again and be able to grow up with literature like this! We hope Madison and many other girls and boys who will get to read ‘Pepper Zhang’ will know they are special, important and needed in the world, and there is nothing wrong with who they are.

You can hear more about the ‘Pepper Zhang’ idea and book in the video below, and pre-order the book yourself via the Little Ning Books website, a publisher of children’s books featuring Asian children.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Actress Kathryn Hahn Releasing Empowering Children's Book For Mothers & Daughters - GirlTalkHQ

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