Growing up in Bundaberg helped shape founder of Expand Your Library Jenae Tien's life and saw her return to launch her educational flash cards Deck of Diversity.
The Deck of Diversity flash cards are designed to be used to support teachers, students, and families to understand and celebrate diversity.
Jenae said the flashcards were fun and colourful with engaging illustrations that would start conversations and spark curiosity.
“Use them to talk about the importance of diversity and the beauty of self-love and acceptance,” she said.
“The cards are perfect for engaging students in meaningful conversations and great for helping young children learn how to read.
“Each card has a letter of the alphabet with a word that starts with that letter and a beautiful illustration associated with that word. On the back of the card, you will see an explanation.”
Through Janae’s social media platform, Expand Your Library, she provides information and connection to diverse books and resources on a daily basis in hopes of dismantling the stigma around talking about diversity and inclusion.
Launching Deck of Diversity on Saturday morning at Dymocks Bundaberg was important for Janae who said returning home brought back fond memories.
“I was born in America but did most of my growing up in good old Bundy,” she said.
“This is the place that shaped me. I had ups and downs like everyone, and I have seen this town grow and expand.
“I love that I get to have a full circle moment and launching in Bundaberg at Dymocks.”
Janae said she believes positive representation was vital in feeling encouraged, celebrated, and safe in order to feel a sense of belonging, and she said Deck of Diversity helped navigate a way to this.
“I remember when Cathy Freeman came to Bundaberg when I was young. I wrote a letter and drew a picture to give to her,” Janae said.
“It felt like the entire town lined up to meet her. People were screaming ‘Cathy, we love you!’
“I was beside myself with excitement. I am African American and Australian but being a young brown girl, and looking into the eyes of a successful, kind and celebrated First Nation woman, I felt so encouraged and overwhelmed and I cried.
“I didn’t know why I was crying but as I look back as an adult it was because I felt connected to her. I knew I could be great, and my skin colour didn’t have to be a problem.
“Being from Bundaberg I have learnt that teamwork makes the dream work!
“I was strongly involved in sport and really admire all the wonderful people who volunteer every weekend to put on events and games for all the kids in Bundaberg and the Wide Bay region.”
As a mother and a journalist Janae said she had written a few short children’s stories, but they had never seen the light of day.
“My husband, who has always been supportive, encouraged me to start a project and finish it,” she said.
“So, I was going to officially write a book (and I will one day) but then thought maybe I should create a tool that can be used in the classroom or at home to dismantle the idea that teaching your children about diversity and inclusion is a difficult or inappropriate task at times.
“At times I feel that we think some topics are off limits to our children because they are ‘too young’ to understand.
“The issue with waiting until they are at an ‘appropriate age’ is that it can already be too late.
“I also wanted to create a product that allowed kids to not only be exposed to other people, ideas, abilities, culture and so on but I wanted to create a product that celebrated self-love and positive representation.
“I believe that kids need to see themselves frequently in their environment and within the resources they are handed to learn from to reiterate the importance of self and that they belong.”
Cards of Diversity is now stocked in Dymocks Bundaberg and online here.
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