Hajera Memon, publisher of Shade 7, and author Medeia Cohan share their experience of publishing children's board book Hats of Faith:
What is Hats of Faith about?
Hats of Faith is a beautifully illustrated introduction to the shared custom of head covering for young children and their parents. It’s a mainstream, interfaith, board book offering stunning imagery, accurate terminology, phonetic pronunciations and clear information. The book encourages an early and open dialogue between children and parents and prepares young people for our culturally diverse modern world.
What inspired Hats of Faith?
MC: At the time I lived a very diverse area of London in Tooting Broadway and I'd see all these amazing head coverings. I wanted to buy a well-illustrated, factual book for my son about the shared custom of head covering so that’d I’d be prepared with good information when he asked me about what he saw, but I couldn't find such a book.
It was around the time of Brexit and just before Trump and I realised that I had a responsibility to do whatever I could to counter the growing intolerance and fear around me, so even though I'd never done anything like this before I decided to write the book I wanted to buy, myself. Hajera encouraged me to really go for it and make it happen.
I believe that early diversity education is essential to raising kind humans and changing the world. I also believe that many small acts of kindness can add up to a powerful movement and can create much needed positive change.
Medeia presenting the book at Eid Festival in London
How did you conduct research for the book?
It’s a huge responsibility to realise a book like this. It took over a year to determine which head coverings we’d include in the book and what we could confidently write that was simple and clear enough, while still being 100% factual. From ensuring the information contained within the book was accurate to depicting the characters well and getting skin tones right, we researched and consulted experts on every step along the way.
Our research led us around the world to of places of worship, from Medeia visiting a local gurdwara (the place of worship for Sikhs), to Hajera meeting with the Church of Haile Selassie (to discuss everything about Rasta hats). In addition to faith leaders, we consulted with costume curators and anthropology and religious studies professors.
We now joke that we could do a PhD in Headwrapology for a book that has less than 150 words!
What message do you want readers to take away from it?
This poor book has a lot of responsibilities. Its main message is one of tolerance, compassion and understanding of others. We hope that an early introduction to diversity helps young people be prepared, knowledgeable and kind when meeting those who might be different to them.
We also hope this book helps parents and educators to confidently and factually introduce faith and diversity into their everyday dialogues, which we believe is key to influencing future generations to be more aware and sensitive.
Finally there is an important message of unity and shared customs across all faiths, which reinforces the point that really we are all the same.
Will you be writing/publishing any other books?
We very much hope that Hats of Faith will be part of a children’s series educating about different aspects of faith, tolerance and diversity. It is the first of many books we have planned to deliver this message, celebrating our customs and similarities.
Hats of Faith by Medeia Cohan will be published by Shade 7 Publishing on 24th August.