5 minutes with… Children’s author Dr Zahra Jiwani

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Professor by day, author by night. This Canadian resident and mother of two is on a mission to instil confidence in children.

Through her two educational books, she hopes to teach valuable life lessons including reaching goals and embracing other cultures.

What inspired you to write children’s books that aren’t your average fairytale?
I have a passion for teaching and for books as well. When I had my two little girls they inspired me to find fun ways to teach important lessons through stories.

One of the most important things I want children to develop from an early age is confidence and that’s why I wrote my first book Set a Goal, Get a Goal.

For my second book, Around the World in 7 Days, I wanted children to travel to all seven continents and understand that we all come from different countries, different cultures, and it’s a great thing to be able to respect and share each other’s cultures.

How do you get young readers to absorb the message given its topic?
I think there are different aspects of the book that engage the kids. The story uses rhyme, which is always a winner with kids. I’m teaching them about goals but not using managerial terms.

The main character I use is a lovable monkey and children seem to relate so well to him: he’s fun, friendly, adventurous and keen to learn.

The illustrations are very captivating and I believe that even without the words, the pictures themselves tell the story.

Why is it important that children learn to set goals?
Kids today around the world are faced with challenges, like bullying, and I want each and every child to build their confidence from as early as possible.

One of the ways to do that is to teach them about goals, why they’re important, how to set them and how to work towards getting them. By meeting their goal they feel happy and accomplished, and this leads to self-confidence.

Your books are aimed at children aged two to ten. Do you think children that young can learn these lessons?
It’s all in how the story is delivered. With two- to three-year-olds I don’t read the whole story to them: I talk them through the pictures, explain what’s happening and I ask them questions.

Do you have any other books planned?
Yes, I’m hoping to get another one published soon. It’s about careers and what children should be. The main point is that it doesn’t matter what you end up being, as long as you’re true to yourself and you’re happy.

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