Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful. — Mary Shelley
I cannot believe that we are in March. I keep saying this, but it is true — time flies!
There are so many good things about March that I LOVE and here’s two of them:
March 3rd — World Book Day.
March 8th — International Women’s Day.
March is that month when authors get busy in the UK. March 3rd is World Book Day. It’s an exciting time in schools because chidlren get to play dress-up, and for some schools, an author or illustrator (illustrators are also authors) might even visit. Author visits can take place all through the month of March.
Children love it when an author visits their school.
They get to see the person who wrote the books they’re reading.
An author visit is powerful because children get to hear a story read to them and they get to ask burning questions and have these questions answered.
“She is fearless. She is tough. She is strong.” — Sahara Khan
World Book Day celebrates books and reading. It seeks to promote reading for pleasure. It was created on April 23rd 1995 by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading.
Reading to your children for 10 minutes a day can change their lives. If you start them young, you’ll bring them up to be readers. To read for pleasure. To think critically as young adults.
For March 2022, I had two schools lined up. They were schools that didn’t require me to travel a long distance. I was sorry to turn down schools that are in Berkshire or Buckinghamshire or Hertfordshire. These counties are not far from London, but they’re far enough for me as I don’t drive. It would take me 2 hours to travel to some of these schools by train. Although I said I am willing to travel, I’ve streamlined travelling to remain within the city of London. A Londoner would vouch that travelling within London can take up to an hour door to door, depending on where you live and where you’re heading towards.
Here I am reading Sahara’s Special Senses to the lil ‘uns at a school in the London Borough of Enfield.
“She is fearless. She is strong. She is tough.”
The children heard Sahara telling them that they’re all this. Three powerful words to build self-esteem and self-love. The children heard me telling them they’re like Sahara and that dreams do come true. Our children need to know that they’re all this; that dreams do come true. And that day at Keble Prep in Enfield, the boys took that away with them.
What’s my takeaway? But before I tell you what it is, here’s the backstory: There was a little boy with golden hair. He was shy. But he wanted to show me the class pet project — recently hatched ducklings. He took my hand and we walked two paces to the duckling enclosure. A curious boy who loves touching everything — my hair, the metal cage of the duckling enclosure , a piece of paper stuck lightly to the metal frame— he caused the paper to fall into the enclosure. He gasped. I gasped. And then I saw his little face. It was filled with terror.
“It’s ok,” I said, “you didn’t do anything wrong. It’s okay, there’s nothing that we can’t fix.”
And then I whispered into his ears, “You’re strong. You’re fearless. You’re tough.”
I looked into his eyes and nodded. He was quiet for a few seconds, processing. Then, he mumbled these three sentences and nodded before running off.
I started to pack up as it was time to leave.
The little boy with the golden hair came back.
“For you,” he said, handing me a paper crown.
“Did you make this crown for me,” I asked. “Why, thank you. It’s beautiful.”
He nodded his head and gave me the warmest hug. His little body burrowed into mine. And I held him tight, held his space.
“When will you come again?” he asked.
“The next time I come, you’ll be taller,” I said. “Not long from now.”
He nodded his head and ran off.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou.
My takeaway: Children need to know that they’re safe. “It’s OK” are two words in the English language they need to hear more. It’s Okay!
Apart from celebrating books and reading, I’ve also been celebrating being a woman. International Women’s Day is a day to mark on your calendar.
“Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.”[IWD Website]
What if there was no International Women’s Day? Would the world still celebrate women? This year’s theme is #BreakTheBias. An apt theme, because biases hold women (and men) back. Biases have long held women back.
I am both happy and saddened that there is a special day dedicated to celebrating women. I think women should be celebrated everyday. Saddened that we still have to break the bias. But happy to do so. I am, as you can see, riding a rollercoaster of emotions as I write this.
We all have biases and these biases hold us back. They prevent us to be free to be ourselves. “A woman dressed like this can’t be smart” made women working in corporates dress like men in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The power suit became a fashion item. In many organisations, women are still expected to dress a certain way. It’s that 3 second impression test. It’s time to #BreakTheBias.
When I was growing up, tattoos were frowned upon. Why? To the Chinese, only bad boys have tattoos. Let’s not even get me started on women with tattoos in the Chinese community. When I was growing up, only badass women had tattoos and these weren’t female leaders or icons; they were not women Chinese children were taught to look up to. And women with tattoos were few and far between when I was growing up because of the stereotyping; they are more Asian/ Chinese women with tattoos now. I’m glad to see these women with tattoos and to observe them wearing their tattoos proudly. I say you do you, girl! But we still have to #BreakTheBias for the other day, someone close to me, someone in my circle of influence, someone I love dearly, said to me, ‘Women with tattoos are ugly!’ That made me extremely sad, extremely mad, extremely eager to use the F-word. So, I stood up to this person I love dearly and said, “That’s just your opinion and your bias, that girl with the tattoo — she doesn’t care what you do with your body, so why should you care what she does with hers?”
As an art historian, who understands the history of tattoos and tattooing and its cultural significance for some communities and groups, I took umbrage to what this loved one had said. It was only recently in New Zealand that Oriini Kaipara, made history by “becoming the first person with a visible facial tattoo to host primetime news on national television.” (Source) Kaipara wanted to have her chin tattooed “to remind her of her power and identity as a Māori woman” (ibid).
As a creative, I was offended by this loved one’s bias. I chose to speak up because if I didn’t, it would be unjust. Unjust for me as a female creative, unjust for the woman with the tattoo, unjust for a nation of people, the Māori nation. Unjust too for this person I love because how then will they learn? There was no need to use the F-word; the person I loved dearly was remorseful and I am glad I spoke up. I spoke up again with my words. This time it was through my writing. I was recently asked to write an article for Words & Pictures, an online magazine for SCBWI British Isles. The Society of Book Writers and Illustrators is an organisation that looks after the needs and interests of children’s book creatives. I was honoured to be able to celebrate IWD through this article.