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Many of us grew up without a redhead character in children’s books. It’s important for all hair colors, ethnicities and body types to be represented. Showing children that we see and value all aspects of them is vital in helping them feel welcome and connected to their teachers and peers.

That’s why Jill Barletti’s work is so powerful.

Barletti is an award-winning author of bilingual personalized children’s books and founder of Snowflake Stories. She dreamed of creating children’s books in different languages, which could be tailored to reflect a child and their loved ones both in the text and image. You may have seen Snowflake Stories bookmarks/info cards in the September 2019 Monthly H2BAR Box! 

We had the chance to interview Barletti to understand more about Snowflake Stories and how it’s bringing families (especially redhead families) closer together:

H2BAR: What inspired you to start Snowflake Stories? 

JB: “Don’t talk to me. Don’t play with me. You speak Spanish. You don’t speak English,” said another child to my then three-year-old son during recess on the playground of his new preschool. My two half-Peruvian children weren’t harassed like this regularly, but they did hear enough hurtful comments that they became ashamed to speak their native language. Like parents of children taunted for their red hair, I sought ways to cast what makes them different in a positive light. Books seemed like the perfect solution, but I struggled to find children’s books written in Spanish when my kids were young.

So when I decided to write a children’s book – after realizing that I enjoyed writing blog posts for my translation business more than actually translating – I knew the storybook had to be bilingual!

Pictured Above: Jill Barletti, Founder of Snowflake Stories

The idea for writing a personalized children’s book came about during our annual family reunion in 2012. My niece and nephew asked me to tuck them into bed, but there were no age-appropriate books; I had to make up a bedtime story. When the two heard that Prince Aidan and Princess Ava were going to fight the fire-breathing dragon, their eyes lit up! It was then that I realized the power of a personalized book.

But how do you illustrate the characters of a customizable storybook? (Our books star one special child and (up to) five of the child’s loved ones.) Because my children knew what it felt like to be left out, they didn’t want any child to feel that disappointment with our book. We knew we didn’t want to use disguises or unnatural colors – We wanted children to instantly recognize themselves and their chosen family members in their personalized book. That’s how we dreamed up this concept of customizable casts and characters.

Pictured Below: Snowflake Stories custom children’s book for How to be a Redhead founders, Adrienne and Stephanie.                                                       

 

So now it really doesn’t matter if your child speaks Spanish or English, has brown eyes or blue, or a single mom or two … We’ll make a book that looks and sounds just like you!

H2BAR: Why do you think it is important for children to see themselves represented in their books? 

JB: In an essay entitled, “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors,” Dr. Rudine Simms Bishop likened books to mirrors, which reflect our experiences, windows, which allow us to see others’ experiences, and sliding glass doors, which transport us to other worlds.

Another important point that Dr. Bishop makes in this essay is that when you don’t see yourself reflected in books, media, and the arts, you don’t feel valued or feel a sense of belonging in society.

The reverse is true as well: If you see yourself in books, media, and the arts, you will feel valued and feel you belong. My children and I embarked on this mission of creating bilingual personalized children’s books because we see representation in books as critical to the development of self-confidence and self-esteem of all children.

H2BAR: What do you hope children will learn from your books? 

JB: First and foremost, I hope that our award-winning, personalized books help children experience the joy of reading. And I hope that their self-confidence and self-esteem grow when they see themselves on the pages of their very own hardcover storybook facing challenges and overcoming fears. I also hope that kids learn the importance of family and how family can help you in your times of need as a result of reading one of our customizable books.

Pictured Above: The Snowflake Stories info card featured in the September H2BAR Box

One last hope is that parents will share Snowflake Stories’ guiding principle with their child: It doesn’t matter if you speak Spanish or English, have brown eyes or blue, or have a single mom or two … we love each and every one of you! At the end of the day, we’re all human beings, and we all want the same things out of life. So it really shouldn’t matter if the family next door has two redheaded dads who speak French – they’re just like the rest of us. And the few things that make us different from one another should be celebrated, not mocked.

Pictured Above: The Snowflake Stories info card featured in the September H2BAR Box

H2BAR: What do you have planned for the series? 

JB: Currently, our line of personalized children’s books consists of four award-winning storybooks: Dance Recital (for girls), The Big Soccer Game (for girls and for boys), and At Bat (for boys).

We recently launched iMessage stickers that coordinate with the dance-themed book so redheads and aspiring ballerinas of any coloring can #SayItWithBallet while texting friends and family. Similar iMessage sticker packs that coordinate with each of the other books are in the works as well.

We’re still in the planning stages of our next personalized children’s book, so there isn’t too much information I can offer at this point. What I can tell you is that unlike our other books, which focus on helping the star of the story overcome a problem or fear, the new book will make you laugh out loud. Yes, the premise is different, but book five will feature customizable casts and characters, and it will be available in any 1 – 2 of 5 languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian, just like the original four books.

And while we work on book five, we will release non-personalized versions of our award-winning personalized books for kids, beginning with our first book, Dance Recital. Our hope is that by making versions of our books available to libraries and bookstores, we will be able to share these uplifting stories with even more kids.

For more info on any of our award-winning personalized children’s books, visit our website: www.SnowflakeStories.com and Rock it like a Redhead!