Callaloo Brings Diversity to Children’s Books

How Callaloo, an educational brand for kids, is changing the way children of color engage with literary content and improving self esteem

Fewer than 10% of the children’s books published in 2015 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin. And while the number of children’s books about people of color has increased in the past 20 years, many black children often feel misrepresented or excluded from classroom curriculum. “What the low numbers for multicultural literature mean is that publishing for children and teens has a long way to go before reflecting the rich diversity of perspectives and experiences within and across race and culture,” according to Kathleen Horning, director of the CCBC.

Solution

Callaloo, an educational brand for children ages three and up, seeks to solve this problem by promoting cultural literacy through books, animation, live performance, digital content, games, and art education. “When children don’t identify with stories or see images that reflect them, it deeply effects their development and self-esteem,” noted Marjuan Canady, CEO of Callaloo. “Likewise, children who do see themselves but don’t see a variety of stories that feature characters that don’t look like them, their development is also negatively being impacted,” she added.

About the Founder and CEO

Canady has a background in media, performance, and the arts. “I am a classically trained actress and playwright who has been studying dance, theater, music, film, arts education, and community arts activism for over sixteen years,” she indicates. “I have trained and studied at some of the best arts institutions in the world including Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Fordham University, New York University, Theater of the Oppressed Center, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and The Moscow Art Theater,” she added.

She has also worked as a film and television producer in Los Angeles and as a performer and director in New York City. She is deeply invested in African Diaspora performance and activism. She’s been awarded fellowships at the Schomburg Center for Black Culture and Research and the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) and studied Black Diaspora folklore and performance aesthetics, gender, media politics, and community arts advocacy.

When asked how her background informs her commitment to cultural literacy and a diversity of perspectives she said, “Being a woman of Trinidadian and African American heritage from Washington, D.C. has given me a very unique perspective on culture, migration, race, gender, and identity politics where I see the world as a much more inter-connected family. All of my personal and professional experiences have deeply informed my work with Callaloo.”

Honors and Awards

Callaloo had been applauded for prompting greater access to learning materials that expose a diversity of perspectives and experiences. The educational brand was awarded the 2015 D.C. TIVA Awards Best Web Series (Bronze), Best Children’s Program (Silver), 2014 First Author Award, and the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago Award.

Callaloo books are available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Kindle, and in the Callaloo Shop at www.callaloothebook.com.

Jared Brown currently coordinates a $25 million initiative at the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) designed to cultivate the next generation of African American innovators and entrepreneurs. He also serves as operations director at Black upStart, an early stage social enterprise that supports entrepreneurs through the ideation and customer validation processes. His commentary on issues related to workforce development, broadly, and black entrepreneurship, specifically, has been published by Black Enterprise, the Center for American Progress, and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Twitter @LearnedServant