Donate your fun.


Nia House’s Auction is around the corner!


Saturday, October 19th.

The auction gives us all the chance to share the best of us.

Donate your fun. Donate your hobby.Donate your friends!


Ideas from the past…

  • Friday night pizza party

  • Tie-dye party

  • Cocktail party

  • Paella party

  • Tea party

  • Bike riding party…

Nia House people are all about the party.


  • Give a Tarot reading

  • Bake a bread of the month

  • Host a craft night

  • Landscape a garden

  • Give a massage

  • Build a stool

  • Sew something

  • Take people out to mushroom forage, rock climb, or abalone dive…

Show us what you’ve got!


  • Restaraunt owner or chef

  • Local shop keeper

  • Tattoo artist

  • Bartender

  • Vacation home owner

  • Author, jeweler, beekeeper…

Ask your friends to support educational equity in early educatoin.

Connect with Stacey ( if you want to brainstorm donation ideas, to know who we ask already, and to get a donation request letter.

Summer Goodbyes

Happy first day of Summer to all!

This is the season when we start to say good-bye to friends as they embark on their next educational adventure. We love you all and are so grateful for the friendship, joy, growth and learning we’ve shared in.

Reading Friends: REALM Charter School Partners with Nia House

REALM Charter School is a neighboring school on 8th Street for students in grades 6-12. A teacher of 9th graders reached out to us with the great idea of REALM students coming to read with Nia House’s children. As you might suspect- the Nia House children loved having highschoolers read to them.

In general, the children at Nia House flock toward anyone reading a book. However, having these people that look like adults, but are somehow not quite the same as their teachers or parents, was unique, special, and definitely cooler!

Nia House is excited to grow a partnership with REALM. We love the opportunity to connect with a school just a few blocks away, we welcome the oppprtunity to grow connections between our children and teenage mentors, and we always celebrate the joy of reading!

Thank you REALM reading volunteers for being leaders in our community.

Easy Vegetarian Lunch Ideas

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Thank you, Joanna Rullo, for offering inspirtation in this blog on vegetarian lunches!

There are some days (weeks? months?) where I just can’t believe it is time to feed my son, Charlie, again! The task of providing three nutritious, balanced meals a day that he will eat is frequently daunting. I am lucky that Charlie is a “good eater” he is willing to try a lot of food and has a good appetite. With that said, it is by no means easy to feed him. Some days things are a big hit, other days he won’t touch the exact same dish he loved last week. Some days he begs me for something, that by the time I put it in front of him, he no longer wants it and refuses to eat. It can be really frustrating, to put it mildly. 

This post includes some of the easier things I make for Charlie’s lunch, that usually (but not always!), are a hit. I typically try to include a protein, vegetable, fruit, and dairy. I usually put in a few ounces of cheese, because I assume he will at least eat the cheese if all else fails.  We live one block from a Trader Joe's, so you will notice a TJs heavy diet! Sure, I had a fantasy that all our food would only come fresh from the farmer’s market before I was a parent, but the reality of parenthood has made frozen and pre-made food a very appealing option!

Things that require some, but minimal cooking:

Tortellini and broccoli: We eat this an embarrassing amount in our house, but it is easy quick to make, easy for Charlie to eat, and sneaks in two vegetables plus the protein. We buy the spinach tortellini from Trader Joe’s (for our family of three, two packages makes enough for all of us for dinner plus lunch for the next day or maybe two days!). I buy a bunch of broccoli (the precut kind on particularly busy/rough days). I add the tortellini to the boiling water, and then add the broccoli to the same water. I boil for 3 to 5 minutes (I just make sure the broccoli is cooked). Some days I over cook the broccoli so it breaks down a lot and clings to the pasta, some days I leave it a little more al dente so that there are florets mixed in with the tortellini. I drain water, drizzle with olive oil and parmesan cheese, and dinner is ready for tonight, and the bulk of lunch is ready for tomorrow.

Sweet Potatoes (the bright purple ones at Monterey Market are always a big hit!)--This is a very easy go-to vegetable that Charlie almost always eats is boiled yams or sweet potatoes. He has been a big kick of loving the dark purple ones! I like that I can give him exciting colors on his plate that aren’t full of artificial dyes. I drop a scrubbed sweet potato into boiling water and cook it until I can easily slide fork into it. I drain the water, and once the sweet potato has cooled slightly, I pull off the skin, then I cut it into bite size pieces and drizzle it with oil or butter. (You can cook yams in the microwave too, they tend to be drier, but it works when time is a big factor). One medium sweet potato/yam can usually be stretched two to three meals.

Delicata Squash--Charlie can eat two whole squash, if I let him! I use a vegetable peeler to take off the skin (but you don't have too! The skin is edible, but Charlie isn’t a big fan of it). I cut the squash lengthwise, scoop out the seeds (making sure to get all the fibrous pieces). I slice the squash in ½ inch strips. I place on a greased baking sheet, and lightly coat the squash with olive oil. I place in a 425 degree oven and roast for about 8 minutes, then flip the slices over and roast for an additional 8 minutes or so.

Frozen Succotash (well, Soycotash from Trader Joe’s)--On the days when I cannot find time to prepare any vegetable, Trader Joe’s “Soycotash” to be really helpful! It is a frozen mix of edamame, corn, and bell peppers. Charlie likes it, potentially because he likes to say the word succotash!

Hard-boiled eggs--Charlie loves peeling eggs! They are an easy, contained make-ahead dish. Truth be told, I really have a strong aversion to eggs, but I have found that I am willing to get over a lot of my aversions if it means Charlie is going to eat happily and it doesn’t require a ton of effort on my end!

Dr. Praeger's Veggie Burgers or other Trader Joe's veggie patties--These frozen patties are fast to heat up and are a quick way to get veggies into Charlie. They travel pretty well, and are a helpful on the days/weeks where I haven’t made it to the store for fresh vegetables.

Things that require no cooking:

Baked Tofu--I am a vegetarian, so Charlie is familiar with to eating tofu, so maybe this won’t be as big of a hit with all kids?  I buy the pre-marinated baked tofu (usually teriyaki) and just slice it up like cheese in Charlie’s lunch. It very quick source of protein that is easy to eat and not very messy!

 Primavera Tamale--Butternut Squash tamales with Cheese by Primavera (sold at Whole Foods, Monterey Market, Natural Grocery, Berkeley Bowl) are a SUPER fast way to get veggies and protein into Charlie. 90 seconds in the microwave and we a lot of the food groups covered. They are not cheap, but they are lifesavers on busy weeks, and I feel good knowing that he ate some veggies.

 Side orders--Sometimes when I am out and picking up lunch or dinner, I will check out the sides menu to see if there is anything good for lunches. It is a great way to incorporate veggies you won’t typically think to cook or things out of your comfort zone.  I often get a side of beans and rice while picking up a burrito! Or a vegetable side.

 Plantains (Maduros)--Charlis loves plantains, and why wouldn’t he? They are like candy! I have found that cutting up plantains and mixing them with something like black beans or diced up tofu makes food he might not be as likely to eat much more appealing. I get plantains as a side order from Tacubaya, Casa Latina, and Cholita Linda.

 Snack plate lunch--The weeks when Charlie asks for something only to reject it once I have prepared it, I often give up and just rely on a snack-lunch. Some days all I can manage are things like slices of cheese, cut up fruit (apples, clementines, berries), plain whole fat yogurt, sliced cucumber, avocado slices.

 Sunflower Butter Sandwich--Dave’s Bread have 5 grams of protein per slice. So that plus a little sunflower butter is a quick nutritious lunch. It is a class and quick way to prepare lunch that isn’t temperature dependent.



Bike Safety with Children

For many Nia House families, bike to school day is everyday! We are so proud to be a school community that celebrates and supports this healthy and fun form of transportation.

Getting your child to ride places takes some preparation, planning, and practice. Our school community has an amazing resource- The Family Bike Collective & Spokes Bike Lounge, run by Katherine’s parents, Pearly and Brian. “The Family Bike Collective is dedicated at getting children on bikes that match their sizes, personalities and lifestyles.” The Family Bike Collective offers training wheel liberation classes- a riding opportunity where children are paired with bikes that fit their size and fun filled instruction!

We encourage those of you that can to bike to Nia House on Thursday, May 9th. We will have totes, stickers, bread, & coffee!

Take the pledge to ride on May 9th and find out about all the fun happenings for this Bike to School Day.

Thank you, Preferred Meats, for donating burgers!

Come eat a very special burger tomorrow at our BBQ!

The grandparents of our toddlers, Celeste and Levi, donated all the hamburgers for our Yard Sale BBQ!


Thank you to Preferred Meats, and very specifically to Bala & Peggy Kironde, for this very generous donation to Nia House.

“Preferred Meats is a family-owned company founded in 1986 with a single goal in mind – To provide the highest quality meat products to the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.“

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The Yard Sale is tomorrow, Saturday, May4th from 9am-2pm.

We look forward to seeing you!

Nia House Loves Me, Get Your Nia House Tshirts!


Did you know Nia House has t-shirts?! We do!

“Nia House Loves Me” children’s shirts come in green and purple, toddler through big kid sizes! Modeled above on Soul & Ololade (left).

Adults, don’t feel left out. We’ve got you covered. Check out the Nia House logo t-shirt modeled by Frances and Mateo (right). The light grey is a very narrow (female?) style tshirt (Kerstin from the office wears a large, though in most clothing, she goes for a small). The charcoal is a wider more traditional tshirt (Stacey from the office rocks a medium of this cut). They are very soft and stylish.

Short sleeve season is around the corner.

Get your tshirt in the office for $20. Email to give a heads up that you are coming by and what you are looking for so we can be ready.


Navigating Child Meltdowns, A Free Workshop for Parents



Saturday, March 16th 9-11am

A FREE hands-on workshop experience with Vanessa Callaghan, MEd.

In this workshop, learn to...

  • RECOVER after overreacting,

  • TALK so your kids will listen,

  • LISTEN for the needs behind the behavior,

  • TAKE ACTION to build mutual respect.

"Working with Vanessa was like a breath of fresh air. I realized things didn't have to be so crazy. I didn't have to keep asking if my child's behavior was normal or not. She helped me find my calm and be more clear on how to set limits and hold the line with love. I don't know what I would have done without her help!" -MM

Complimentary coffee, tea, and community! Hosted by Nia House Learning Center, in Berkeley, CA.

Limited childcare is available for currently and formerly enrolled Nia House students, contact  

Vanessa Callaghan, MEd. is a proven Bay Area educator known for her refreshingly honest, hands-on, and personal approach. She empowers parents with high-quality tools so they can build a lifelong relationship based on respect, appreciation, and love.

Be sure to RESERVE YOUR SEAT…space is limited!

Your Love Makes a $3,000 Difference!

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Last year, we introduced a new monthly giving option.

“I Heart NH” was designed to make giving easy. Small monthly donations are automatically withdrawn from your account.

We thought that if a lot of people gave a little bit, it would add up to a lot.

After a year, it is working! Thank you to everyone that has joined “I Heart NH”!

Your small donations total over $3,000 annually toward our scholarship funds!

If you have $5 or $10, or $50 that you can spare each month, sign up here for “I Heart NH”.

Your donations support Nia House’s scholarship fund.

Thank you, Jordan, for designing this cool sticker (one day those hoodies will happen)!

Thank you, Jordan, for designing this cool sticker (one day those hoodies will happen)!

Centering Children of Color in Early Literature

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Author, Sonia Panigrahy, visited the preschool classrooms at Nia House to read her book, Nina the Neighborhood Ninja. ”Nina is smart and strong and speedy.” In children’s literature, Nina is a rarity.

People of color are underrespesented in children’s literature and girl characters show up only half of the time. According to the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, in 2016, people of color accounted for 22% of characters in children’s books. (Donnela, Leah. “People Of Color Accounted For 22 Percent Of Children's Books Characters In 2016.” Code Switch, NPR. 2017, February 17. LINK) A 2011 study found that male characters were twice as likely to appear in children’s literature than female characters. (Woods, Christine. “Children’s books, give me a female squirrel, a female duck, a female anything.” The Washington Post. 2018, June 1. LINK) This makes Nina the Neighborhood Ninja and important contribution to the realm of children’s literature.

Sonia shared that she wanted write a children’s story where the girl character had the chance to be the superhero. Nina is just that. Nina acts quickly to save her animal friends using her smarts, strength, and speed. Sonia shared that not only do girls need the chance to see an empowered girl character, boys need to see it too. In addition to Nina being a girl, Nina is an empowered girl of color, tasked not with fighting racism or injustice, as is commonly the narrative for children’s literature on race, but she is a regular kid living in a neighborhood where animals need her help. She is relatable to all readers. Blogger, Ashia Ray, writes “All kids need oodles of stories where girls of color don’t have to justify their existence – where every message isn’t about racism, sexism, and a tourist view of foreign lands. Even white boys – especially white boys – need to see girls of color who are valuable, powerful, and unique.” (Ray, Ashia. “Books About Girls Are Not Just For Girls – Representation Matters.” 2018. Raising Luminaries, Books for Littles.)

We all deserve and need to see characters like Nina and we have Sonia Panigrahy to thank for bringing Nina to the children of Nia House.

Vegan Facials at Nia House

On Sunday February 10th 2pm-4pm

join Kerstin Phillips for an afternoon of pampering with

vegan facials and delicious and nutritious treats.

Connect on healthy living inside and out. You'll go home with an Arbonne nutrition goody bag and when you fall in love with the products Kerstin will help you with "friends don't let friends pay retail" therapy.


$40 per person

All proceeds go to Nia House! Thank you, Kerstin!

Email Kerstin ( if you’d like to participation. Space is limited. This is an adult event.

All genders welcome!

"We’re making books a Berkeley birthright."

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If you are a Berkeley Family with a child under the age of 5, your child is eligible to receive free books each month!

The Berkeley Baby Book Project says “We believe that every child in Berkeley, CA should have an excellent home library from birth. That’s why we’ve affiliated with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to offer free home delivery of one hand-selected book every month from birth to age five.”

Visit The Berkeley Baby Book Project to learn more.

We have Registration Forms in the office. Let’s grow your libraries!

Parent Hours

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Thank you parent community for your amazing contributions to Nia House so far. You all clean out fish tanks and chicken coops, serve on committees, planned an amazing auction party, cut paper, deep clean our appliances, edit our writing, stuff envelopes and so much more!

If you haven’t chipped in yet, I have good news for you- We have ongoing needs!

Parent Hours are due on May 16th.

This may seem ages away, but it comes quickly! Let’s get you involved now.

As a reminder, two parent households contribute 20 hours and a single parent household 12 hours.

Come by the office or email if you see a job for you.

Now, on to all the exciting tasks we really need your help with!

Building things:

  • Geo-dome climbing structure

    • A new climbing structure for the toddler yard

    • 2-3 adults

    • 2+ hours

  • Wooden 4 Foot Tall Doll House

    • We’ve acquired a vintage German doll house. There are no instructions for assembly!

    • 1-2 Creative adults

    • ??? hours

Run an errand:

We have old hardware that needs to be returned to Pastime Ace Hardware in El Cerrito.

Fixing things (can take home):

  • Old wooden barn (alike a doll house)

    • Clean & finish to protect from the rain.

  • Bell Repair

    • Similar to those pictured on the left. They need reassembly. Talk to Eve for more details.

Nurturing Positive Attachments with Firmness and Love

In the last parent meeting, we explored Nurturing Positive Attachments with Firmness and Love.

What is an attachment bond?

An attachment bond is the emotional connection formed by non-verbal. This bond forms easiest at infancy, though can happen and heal at any point in our life. The quality of this bond impacts mental, physical, intellectual and social development

How is this bond formed?


A secure attachment is forged through non-verbal cues such as tone of voice, quality of touch, facial expression, eye contact, body language, and how our adult pacing, timing, and intensity matches the needs of the infant.

Humans, from the onset, need to belong, to feel their needs met, to be understood, and attuned to. This need informs the infant and child’s brain and nervous system’s development which informs the emotional, mental, and physical development, and also impacts relationship forming patterns later in life.

There are important differences between love and care taking and forming a secure bond. Love and care taking include acts such as feeding, diapering, bathing, and singing to infants. A secure attachment bond occurs when we attune to the expressions of the infant or child in the moment. This can by done by mirroring a sad facial expression, slowing down, offering a hug, and being calm and centered enough in our adult experience to be able to register the expressed needs of the infant or child.

What is firmness?

Firmness is not anger or domination, rather, it is the setting of limits and expresses an adult’s own actions. Some examples:

  • I will wait until your body is ready.

  • I am going to walk away.

  • When you run into the street, it shows me we need to hold hands. Do you want to walk?

When a child experiences limits, they feel safer for knowing what the boundaries and expectations are. Without limits, it is the task of the child to experiment and test to see how far they can go. When one parents from anger or domination, a child learns to stop undesired behavior at the moment anger arises. Firm limits can prevent this.

Firmness demonstrates mutual respect for it respects a child’s right to choose what to do and it respects the adult capacity to respond to a child, but not be placed at the mercy of a child.

Clear limits and boundaries support family attachments with all family members knowing what is expected, rather than the alternative of feeling “told what to do.”

Here is a link to an article on Kindness and Firmness at the Same Time from a Positive Discipline lens. Here are a list of Positive Discipline strategies to test out with loving firmness: Positive Discipline Strategies.

Read the Parent Handout from the meeting for more insight into recovery, how to bond, and what motivates children’s behavior and need for consistent boundary setting.

Girls in Real Life vs. Children’s Books

“I DID THE MONKEY BARS ALL THE WAY TO THE END!” was loudly broadcasted through my cell phone from my five-year old niece on a Sunday afternoon two Septembers ago. During a recent trip to visit my sister’s family, I went with them to the local public elementary school to register her children, my niece and her two older brothers, for the new school year. While their parents navigated the long lines outside of the school, I took the kids to the adjacent playground where within seconds I promptly lost all of them. Realizing my nephews had found their friends from the prior school year, I searched for my niece who did not yet have an established friend circle as an incoming kindergarten student. I spotted her eyeing the monkey bars.

 I encouraged her to give it a try. She grasped the first bar with both hands, swung her right arm to the first bar, then the left arm, balancing strength with physical and mental momentum. By the third monkey bar, she lost that momentum, dropped to the ground, and repeated this process five times, never making it to the end. When we got home, I decided to take this opportunity to have a conversation with her about how proud I was of her determination. The means of the conversation was letting her in on a “top secret” preview of my children’s book manuscript.


 In my book, Nina the Neighborhood Ninja, the lead character is a young girl of color who is a superhero by using everyday powers of being smart, strong, and speedy. She takes charge by using her brains and muscles to solve problems. With creativity and determination, she makes it through a long and tiring day of mastering rescue missions. Usually, this storyline is centered on a male character. I wanted to put a female character front in center of a superhero adventure narrative to fill a void that is still quite prevalent. Even while half the United States is female, they are only included in less than half of children’s books. For example, less than a quarter of the “best children’s books of all time” are about a female character ( Even the comic industry in enjoyed by an audience that is split almost evenly between males and females, yet only a third of DC Universe and Marvel characters are female.

It was a disappointing realization that girls like my niece, are excluded from the fun and adventurous storylines where they get to be the one saving the day. The thing that would strike me over and over again was that I see girls like my niece all the time in real life. We all know them. These are the little girls that embody the same superhero and adventurous traits we see in little boys. The question I could not figure out, was that why do we continue to only see boys in books portraying those traits, but not girls?

If education is meant to be a social equalizer as Horace Mann famously stated, and we use books to educate children, then what are we in fact teaching children about their values and roles in society when we exclude a large portion of our population? On the shelves of children’s bookstores, it is very clear to see that stories confine both boys and girls to ideas who they can be and what they can accomplish. My goal in writing the book was that all children see themselves in books, validating their value in society. No longer should little boys and girls have to be given a limited image of what a hero is, but knowing that anyone can be a superhero, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, or gender. It was with this sense of inequity that I decided to create Nina the Neighborhood Ninja.

At the end of my story, the young reader is asked, “Are you smart? Are you strong? Are you speedy?” This is a prompt for the adult and child to discuss their own superpowers. True to what I expected, girls are not taught that they are strong, so they do not know how to answer this specific question. I tested it out on my niece. “Are you strong?” There’s a pause, and then a quiet, “No.” I explained, “Yes you are. I saw you on that playground today and you tried to do the monkey bars FIVE times. Just the fact you tried makes you strong.” She didn’t say anything, but her mind was working. Little did I know, she spent her first two weeks during recess mastering the monkey bars. When she saw my name on her mother’s phone, she grabbed it and answered it with “I DID THE MONKEY BARS ALL THE WAY TO THE END!” I replied, “Wow!!! That’s awesome! What did you do when you reached the end? Did you do a happy dance?” She replied, “No. I just did them again.“


My 5-year old niece drawing herself doing something strong as evidenced by mastering the monkey bars.



Author Sonia Panigrahy (Pah-Nee-Grah-Hee), is a public health professional, world traveler, adventure seeker, and fitness enthusiast. Her motto is that life is too short to be bored! 

Nina the Neighborhood Ninja was created out of Sonia's lifelong love of reading. As her family and friends begin to have children, she looked forward to sharing this love with them. She believes that books are a powerful way to empower impressionable young minds. 

Sonia was surprised that she could not find books for kids ages 3-6 years that realistically identified females as intelligent, physically tough, brave, and adventurous. She was disappointed that girls continue to be excluded from the heart of the superhero story. 

After unsuccessful attempts to find a young girl superhero protagonist on the pages of a book, especially one of color, she gave up. Then she created her own.


Let's change the world in 1 minute and 5 seconds. Watch this!

Let’s change the world in one minute and five seconds! This #GivingTuesday, help us unite the world in one thing we can all agree on: it’s time to #BeTheGood we want to see in the world.



On Tuesday, November 27th,

  1. Visit @benevity on Twitter

  2. Look for #GivingTuesday video tweet (hint, it’s pinned to the page).

  3. Click the “retweet” icon

  4. In the comment section, type in @NiaHouse1974 & hashtag #BeTheGood, plus any note you’d like to include. (You’ve earned Nia House $10!)

  5. Pat yourself on the back! You’re part of the good in the world.

Thank you, Benevity!!

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Silicon Valley Bank & Soccer at Nia House

The Silicon Valley Bank made a generous donation to Nia House.

The Silicon Valley Bank’s grant brings accessibility and opportunity to the children and families of Nia House.  

We are grateful to receive this money, gifted to Nia House for our role as an organization that supports the economic sustainability of low and moderate income families by offering full day and year round child care through our scholarship program. Nia House provided scholarships for more than 41% of the students, offering children and families in the amount of $313,205 in the 2017-18 year. 

Nia House enables adults in our community to pursue education, maintain employment, and become educational advocates for their children. Children, ages 18 months to six years, benefit with the tools to develop age-appropriate, healthy learning habits in a safe environment with loving care. 

Nia House is using The Silicon Valley Bank’s grant to fund access for all children to participate in soccer programming. Local small business partner, Soccer2gether, sends two coaches each week to work with our children as they develop basic motor skills, soccer fundamentals, self-confidence, the virtues of teamwork and cooperation, and the health and physical developmental benefits of activity.

The Washington Post reports,

For the third consecutive year, children from low-income households were half as likely to play a significant amount of team sports as children from households earning at least $100,000, the report shows. They were also three times as likely to be physically inactive.

The troubling data is part of youth sports and public health advocates’ generational crusade against childhood obesity and inactivity…

‘If we’re really looking at being a more inclusive and healthier society, we should probably get these kids playing together more out on the field — everybody, not just certain populations that can afford it.’  
— Bogag, Jacob. “Youth sports still struggling with dropping participation, high costs and bad coaches, study finds.” The Washington Post. 16 October 2018.

Thank you, Silicon Valley Bank, for this wonderful opportunity for the children at Nia House! We are grateful for The Silicon Valley Bank’s commitment to the education and economic viability of traditionally underserved communities. 


Donation Drive for Bay Area Border Relief

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Through the organization Bay Area Border Relief, we will be organizing donations to go to families released from immigrant detention, many of whom have been separated from their children, in Texas. Adults and children as young as infants are stripped of everything (even the laces on their shoes) when apprehended crossing the border (most of these individuals are fleeing extreme violence in Central America). When they are released to be reunited with relatives somewhere in the US while they undergo proceedings for their asylum cases, they have absolutely nothing and have not been able to shower for days.  A group of professors and students from the University of San Francisco have been working with a local humanitarian center in Brownsville, Texas and are taking a truck of supplies immediately after the thanksgiving holiday.

We are inviting Nia families to donate items, money, cards or time towards these efforts. 



On Saturday November 17, from 2-4p, there will be a parents only work time to assemble the toiletry kits and activity bags, and sort the donated items into bags for delivering to the organizers. 


If you would like to donate new or gently used items, here is a list of what’s needed: 

- sweatshirts and t-shirts (any kids sizes or adult small or medium)

-small blankets 

- backpacks 

- gloves, hats, jackets 

- gift cards 


If you would like to donate money, we will use it to purchase items to make toiletry kits and activity bags for the children. Money can be donated by leaving it in an envelope in the office at Nia House or via Venmo to @Monisha-Bajaj. Please send any donations by November 5 so we can best estimate how many kits/bags we can make. 

Greeting Cards:

We would like to add cards of welcome for the children in their activity bags so if you’d like to have your child make cards with words of “welcome” “bienvenidos” or other kind messages of love and hope, please bring them to the office at Nia house by November 15. 

45+ Children’s Books about South Asian History and Culture 

Thank you, Monisha, for another spectacular review centering South Asian children’s literature. You introduce important, beautiful, and empowering narratives for our children.

by Monisha Bajaj

Books offer both a “window” into the realities of others, and a “mirror” to see our own realities reflected (a metaphor coined by Emily Style in 1988). The diversity gap in children’s books has been widely noted: while people of color make up nearly 40% of the U.S. population, in an analysis of children’s literature published over the past 25 years, just 13% of books contained multicultural or global content (from Lee & Low Books).  

One in four of the world’s people live in South Asia, a region with nearly two billion people and made up of the following countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. South Asians have diverse nationalities, religions, cultures, histories, and ways of life (downloadable map here). Through migration starting hundreds of years ago and continuing to the present-day, South Asian communities can now be found in North America, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, the Pacific Islands, and in Latin America and the Caribbean.

For families with South Asian heritage, there are more options than ever before, with books featuring brown-skinned characters doing everyday activities in the U.S. (e.g., Nina the Neighborhood Ninja and Super Satya Saves the Day ), as well as books about specific food, dress, and culture in distinct regions and countries of origin.

Parents and families play an important role in bringing cultural and historical knowledge to schools where gaps exist, and fostering a sense of global citizenship in their children. Fall is a time when there are several occasions for parents and educators to explore South Asian history and culture, including: the Independence days for Afghanistan (August 9), Pakistan (August 14), India (August 15) and later in the year, Nepal (December 21); the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, and Jain festivals of Diwali, Bandi Chhor Divas & Paryushan (usually in October or November based on the lunar calendar); the Nepali Dashain festival (usually in October); sometimes, the Muslim festivals of Eid (depending on the Islamic calendar and where it falls); and the birthdays of independence leaders Mohandas Gandhi (October 2) and Jawaharlal Nehru (November 14, also known as Children’s Day in India).

Spring can also be a good time to introduce different themes related to the Sikh holiday of Vaisakhi, the Zoroastrian & Baha’i holiday of Norooz, the Hindu Holi festival (all of which are usually in March or April based on the lunar calendar); Vesak which celebrates the Buddha’s birthday (usually in May); and Bangladesh’s independence day (March 26), among other holidays.

Basically, regardless of the occasion or time of year, there’s always a way to bring South Asian culture and history to the classroom!  

Below is a list of books—focused primarily on ages 3 to 8 years old—to introduce South Asian history and culture to young children whether as a “window” into other global realities or as a “mirror” for students with South Asian heritage. At the end is also a list of recommended books for children aged 10-12 and above. This is not an exhaustive list and is heavy on books about India given the fact that it has a vibrant local publishing industry. Please add your own recommendations in the comments below to make this resource list more thorough. And talk to your local library and school staff about your ideas for making their book collections more diverse and representative.

As a professor of education and a parent, it’s encouraging to see the growth in diverse children’s publishing, and the increasing possibilities these books bring for understanding, awareness, and inclusion.  

A great resource for finding most of these books listed below is the online book-seller KitaabWorld. Special thanks to KitaabWorld’s founders, Gauri Manglik & Sadaf Siddique, for their suggestions and insights on this post.

Struggles for Justice  

1. I Will Save the Land, by Rinchin (Author) and Sagar Kolwankar (Illustrator)

This book about a young Adivasi (indigenous) girl in the Chhattisgarh state of India shows how big development displaces families, and one girl’s struggle to resist. Book trailer here.  

2. Books about Mohandas Gandhi

These books introduce children to issues of colonialism, the struggle for independence, and Gandhi’s leadership in the subcontinent’s freedom movement.

2a. A Taste of Freedom: Gandhi and the Great Salt March, by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (Author), Giuliano Ferri (Illustrator)

2b. Grandfather Gandhi, by Arun Gandhi & Bethany Hegedus (Authors), Evan Turk (Illustrator)

3. The Boy Who Asked Why: The Story of Bhimrao Ambedkar, by Sowmya Rajendran (Author), Satwik Gade (Illustrator)

This book tells the story of Bhimrao Ambedkar, a leading figure in the Indian independence movement and a champion of the rights of Dalits (formerly called “untouchables”) to be free from caste discrimination.

4. Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan: Two Stories of Bravery, by Jeanette Winter (Author, Illustrator)

This book features two young heroes from Pakistan who stood up for the right to education in their communities and were met with backlash for doing so.

Girl Power/Inspiring Women  

5. Malala’s Magic Pencil, by Malala Yousafzai (Author), Kerascoët (Illustrator)

Written by the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Malala Yousafzai, about her wish as a child for a magic pencil.

6. Sarla in the Sky, by Anjali Joshi

This book tells the story of India’s first female pilot in a beautifully-drawn book.

7. One Grain Of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale, by Demi (Author)

This book showcases a mathematically talented girl who outsmarts a greedy king who hoards all the rice for himself.  

8. A Pair of Twins, by Kavitha Mandana (Author) and Nayantara Surendranath (Illustrator)

In this beautifully-illustrated story, an unusual “pair” born on the same day are called upon to save the day.

9. Razia and the Pesky Presents, by Natasha Sharma (author)

In this longer book for ages 6 and up, the first female ruler of South Asia from the 13th century, Razia Sultana, is introduced; as is her problem of receiving mystery presents from an unknown source, and her desire to get to the bottom of it.  

10. Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter (Author, Illustrator)

In this book, Nasreen’s grandmother enrolls her in a secret school and tells of her experiences there.

11. Mina vs. the Monsoon, by Rukhsanna Guidroz (Author), Debasmita Dasgupta (Illustrator)

This book introduces Mina who is upset that the monsoon rains are getting in the way of her playing soccer. While stuck inside, she discovers a secret about her mother.

12. The Why Why Girl, by Mahasweta Devi (Author) and Kanyika Kini (Illustrator)

A children’s book by one of India’s most acclaimed authors, Mahasweta Devi, about a young girl in a village perplexed by why she is told she cannot do certain things because she is a girl, and from a certain social background. Text-heavy but a unique book with beautiful illustrations.

Holidays/Religious Celebrations  

13. Books about Diwali

Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, is a fall festival that is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains in different ways, and marks different significant religious occasions.

13a. Amma, Tell me about Diwali, by Bhakti Mathur

This book offers a colorful description of a Hindu family’s celebration of Diwali, including the story of Rama and Sita, as well as contemporary customs. In reading this for my child’s pre-school, I skip some pages in the middle to keep it a bit shorter for younger kids.  

13b. Diwali: A Cultural Adventure, by Sana Sood (Author), Rubina Hoda (Illustrator)

This rhyming book is a good introduction to the Hindu story of Diwali in an accessible way. The last pages have a larger perspective on the meanings of the festival.

13c. Let’s Celebrate Diwali, by Anjali Joshi (Author), Tim Palin (Illustrator)

In this book for younger children, a Hindu young girl shares her family’s Diwali traditions and learns about her classmates’ celebrations of the same holiday though they come from different religious backgrounds (Jain, Sikh, and Buddhist).

14. A Dog Named Haku: A Holiday Story from Nepal, by Margarita Engle, Amish Karanjit, Nicole Karanjit (authors), Ruth Jeyaveeran (illustrator)

Two brothers celebrate Kukur Tihar, a day to honor dogs during the Fall festival time in Nepal. In the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake, they search for a specific dog.

15. Festival of Colors, by Surishtha Sehgal and Kabir Sehgal (authors)

This book introduces the Hindu festival of Holi, where colors are thrown on friends, family and neighbors, and spring is welcomed.

16. Books about Eid

Muslims in South Asia and around the world partake in various celebrations, including Eid (literally meaning “feast”). The first marks the end of the 40-days of Ramadan (Eid Al-Fitr), and the second (Eid Al-Adha) is during the Hajj pilgrimage each year.

16a. Night of the Moon, by Hena Khan

Award-winning children’s author Hena Khan explores a Pakistani-American girl’s Eid celebrations through a discussion of its history and the traditions.

16b. Amal’s Eid, by Amy Maranville

Amal is in the 3rd grade and invites readers in to see how his family from Bangladesh celebrates the end of Ramadan with the Eid Al-Fitr festival.

16c. The Best Eid Ever, by Asma Mobin-Uddin (Author), Laura Jacobsen (Illustrator)

In this book, Aneesa misses her parents who are away on the Hajj pilgrimage. Her grandmother helps her find a special way to celebrate Eid that involves helping others.

17. Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes, by Hena Khan (author), Mehrdokht Amini (illustrator)

A beautifully illustrated book that takes readers through shapes and the principle components of Muslim faith, as seen through the shapes a child sees.   

18. The Truth About the Tooth, by Maria L. Denjongpa (author), Chetan Sharma (illustrator) 

A Tibetan folktale about a young boy who keeps forgetting to bring something back from his travels to Sarnath, the place where the Buddha first gave his teachings.

19. Lohri: The Bonfire Festival, by Parveen Kaur Dhillon (Author), Anantdeep Kaur (Illustrator)

This book introduces the Punjabi winter festival of Lohri (usually in January) through rhymed verses.  

20. Let's Celebrate Vaisakhi! by Ajanta Chakraborty and Vivek Kumar

This book in the Maya and Neel’s Adventure Series takes the narrators to the Punjab region of South Asia to celebrate the spring festival of Vaisakhi.

21. Mahavira: The Hero of Nonviolence, by Manoj Jain (Author), Demi (Illustrator)

In this book, the teacher Mahavira who founded the Jain religion is introduced as are the principles of nonviolence espoused by adherents to his philosophies.

Everyday Life  

22. King for a Day, by Rukhsana Khan (Author), Christiane Kromer (Illustrator)

During the kite festival of Basant in Lahore, Pakistan, Malik is trying to get his kite to fly the highest and best. Malik navigates the kite festival in his wheelchair and counters a bully who appears.

23. A Bhil Story, by Nina Sabnani (author), Sher Singh Bhil (illustrator) 

This book which explores the origin stories of the indigenous Bhil community in northern India is vividly painted and demonstrates issues of natural conservation.

24. Magical Fish, by Author Chandrakala Jagat and Illustrator Shakunlata Kushram 

Happiness has begun to leak out of the world and one old woman has a plan to bring it back. It involves finding a magical fish in a special green lake. This story is from the indigenous Gond people in central India, and the illustrator uses traditional Gond artwork in the book. A video about the book can be found here.

25. Aamu's Kawandi, by Shrujana N Shridhar

This book is about the Siddi community in South Asia (originating from East Africa and settling in the present day countries of India and Pakistan as early as 600 A.D.). Aamu, a Siddi girl, shares a story of her quilt or “kwandi” that has patchwork with scenes from around her village.

26. Chandra's Magic Light: A Story in Nepal, by Theresa Heine (Author), Judith Gueyfier (Illustrator)

Chandra and her sister learn about a solar-powered lamp and are determined to find a way to get one for their family whose home is in the Himalayan mountains in Nepal.

27. Crane Boy, by Diana Cohn (Author), Youme Landowne (Illustrator)

This book is set in the Himalayan mountain nation of Bhutan and features a boy who, alarmed at seeing fewer cranes migrating each year, decides to take action.

28. Four Feet, Two Sandals, by Karen Lynn Williams (Author), Khadra Mohammed (Author)

Set in a refugee camp in Pakistan, two girls find one sandal each donated by aid workers. In figuring out how to share the sandals, readers are introduced to the realities in the refugee camp.

29. Grandma and the Great Gourd: A Bengali Folktale, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Author), Susy Pilgrim Waters (Illustrator)

This book by renowned novelist Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni offers a retelling of a Bengali folktale about a grandmother who outwits animals that are trying to eat her as she journeys through the forest.

30. The Story and the Song, Manasi Subramaniam (Author), Ayswarya Sankaranarayanan (Illustrator)

In this Tamil folktale, stories that don’t get told and songs that don’t get sung are determined to find a way to be heard.  

31. When the Rain Comes, by Alma Fullerton (author) and Kim La Fave (illustrator)

Set in Sri Lanka, this book tells the story of a girl, Malini, and her family’s experiences during the rainy season.

32. My Chacha is Gay, by Eiynah

This book, which is a bit hard to find for purchase (though several Northern California Bay Area libraries have it), focuses on a diverse family in Pakistan doing everyday things. It features a young boy’s narration about his Chacha (paternal uncle) and his Chacha’s male partner. A video of the book can be found here.  

Universal Values:  

33. Manjhi Moves a Mountain, by Nancy Churnin (Author), Danny Popovici (Illustrator)

Manjhi uses a hammer and his sheer determination to demonstrate perseverance in creating a pathway from his poor village to a nearby village with schools, a hospital, and markets.

34. Room in your Heart, by Kunzang Choden (author)

This story of generosity is by one of Bhutan’s leading writers, and tells of a woman making room for more and more people in her home. It ends with the moral, “There will always be room in your home, as long as there is room in your heart.”

35 The Clever Boy and the Terrible, Dangerous Animal, by Idries Shah (author), Rose Mary Santiago (illustrator) 

This book tells the story of overcoming fears of unknown things/people through a Sufi folktale set in Afghanistan where a boy helps villagers see that something they fear is nothing to be feared at all.

36. Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea: How a Science Project Helps One Family and the Planet, by Elizabeth Suneby (Author), Rebecca Green (Illustrator)

It’s monsoon season in Bangladesh and Iqbal decides to problem-solve by creating a solar cooker for his science fair so that his mother won’t cough so much while cooking on an indoor open fire. This book demonstrates care for others, creativity, and innovation.

37. Chachaji’s Cup, by Uma Krishnaswami (Author), Soumya Sitaraman (Illustrator)

A story about a boy’s relationship with his great uncle who has lived through the violent partition of India and Pakistan. Neel shows his great uncle kindness and compassion through the story.

38. A Bucket of Blessings, by Kabir Sehgal (Author), Surishtha Sehgal (Author), Jing Jing Tsong (Illustrator), Maya Angelou (Afterword)

This book teaches gratitude through a folktale from India about a monkey and a peacock.

Recommendations for 10-12 and up

39. The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis

In this book set during the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Parvana has to dress as a boy to be able to earn money for her family. This book describes difficult circumstances, but also introduces young readers to history and geopolitical relations by mentioning how the rise of the Taliban was due to support from the U.S. during the Cold War.

40. Ahimsa, Supriya Kelkar (author)

In this book set in 1942, Anjali, who is 12, is thrust into the Gandhian movement for freedom from British rule on the subcontinent when her mother decides to join in it. There are themes of caste discrimination, gender inequality, and anti-colonial struggles that get raised in this book.  

41. Ambedkar: The Fight for Justice, by Srividya Natarajan & S. Anand (Authors), Durgabai Vyam & Subhash Vyam (Illustrators), John Berger (Foreword)

In this beautifully-illustrated graphic novel, the story of Bhimrao Ambedkar is told of his facing caste discrimination in the late 1800s and early 1900s, studying law overseas in New York and London, and ultimately being an independence leader and the crafter of India’s first Constitution in 1950.

42. Step up to the Plate Maria Singh, by Uma Krishnaswami

This story is of a young girl from a Punjabi-Mexican family and set in 1945. Restrictive immigration laws in the early- to mid-1900s only allowed immigrant male workers to migrate from Punjab, resulting in marriages between Punjabi men and Mexican women in agricultural communities in California. The story is about how Maria longs to be on a softball team and the challenges facing her family.

43. Rickshaw Girl, by Mitali Perkins (Author), Jamie Hogan (Illustrator)

This story set in Bangladesh and is about a 10-year old girl, Naima, who wants to help earn money for her family despite gender norms that discourage it.  

44. The Night Diary, by Veena Hiranandani

This book is probably better for slightly older (12+) given themes of death and violence related to a girl’s story of enduring the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. Through letters to her deceased mother, we learn about what her and her family go through to find a new home.

45. I See the Promised Land: A Life of Martin Luther King Jr., by Arthur Flowers (Author), Manu Chitrakar (Illustrator)

 This book is not about South Asian history or culture per se, but tells the story of the life of African-American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. (and his influences from Gandhian philosophy) in a graphic novel by Indian artist Manu Chitrakar. This beautiful book presents a story known to many young people in the U.S. in a Patua art style from eastern India and Bangladesh.

46. Dear Mrs. Naidu, by Mathangi Subramanian 

This book told through the letters a young girl writes to the deceased Indian independence leader she’s named after, Sarojini Naidu, tells a story of educational inequalities and human rights in present-day India.