A new picture book for helping kids learn to celebrate the differences in their skin.
Writing has always been a part of Cyana Riley’s life. As a child growing up in Washington, D.C., she wrote poetry and later for her school’s newsletter. After attending George Washington University, Riley moved on to teach at a private preschool where she taught for six years before having her first son and becoming a stay-at-home mom.
Her son, Hunter, is almost four now, and was her motivation to write “Not So Different.” “Children learn so much from reading books and I wanted to create a book where he could see his family structure in it,” says Riley. “I looked for books with biracial children and I didn’t find many, so I created my own. I knew we would have conversations about the differences of our skin tone and hair and I wanted a tool that I could use as a visual when we had those conversations.
“Not so Different” is geared toward kids from preschool to second grade. It’s a beautifully illustrated picture book that kids as young as two will enjoy. But, says Riley, “Depending where you are in having this conversation with your children, it can be used as a conversation starter for older children as well.”
In the book, the main character talks about his differences. “He’s self-aware and confident about those differences, so throughout the story he points them out to his friends,” Riley says. “He also acknowledges the importance of being different and people learning from each other’s differences.”
When Riley first showed her son the book, she says he identified and named every character based on a person in his life. “It goes beyond skin color. One character has glasses, another has freckles, and someone in the book is in a wheelchair. So while the book focuses a lot on diversity, it also talks about inclusion and being friends with people who are different than you.”
Riley says she has some other book ideas and is committed to creating books that represent black and brown children as the main character. She lives in Gambrills with her husband and two children, ages almost 4 and 9 months.
“Not So Different” is currently available at notsodifferentbook.com, or at store.bookbaby.com. You can also find it locally at The Petal Pushers/Wild Flower shops in Arnold and Linthicum.
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