Representation matters. With that in mind, I’m excited about the upcoming launch of Culture Chest, a new book subscription box that spotlights diverse books for children ages 3-8. Rose Espiritu, the creator of Culture Chest, describes it as “a monthly care package designed to empower your child to learn about other cultures in our interconnected world.” The first box, due out next month under the theme “Dancing in September,” will contain three books about music from different cultures. You can use the code GETCULTURED to get 15% off. I recently had the chance to chat with Rose, and I asked her a few questions about her new venture and her views on reading. Check out the full interview on my blog, link is in the profile.
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a free spirit that has a very hard time describing herself so bear with me. I am half Nigerian and half Filipino. Around two years ago, I began a documentary about parenting someone of a different race. I interviewed over 100 interracial families as well as those brought together through transracial adoption. Many of the families explained the difficulties of finding resources such as books with characters that looked like their children. This inspired me to begin @CultureChest
While conducting interviews for my documentary, I interviewed a young Latina who was adopted by a Caucasian family when she was born. She told me about a book that described the adoption process and compared it to a “birthing video.” It was the only explanation she had for how she came to be. Through her, I truly understood the value of books.
Looking at my own experience, I didn’t visit Nigeria or the Philippines until I was an adult. The main connection I had to my culture was through books such as Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun. Books are a powerful way to learn about our history and understand the experience of other people. I hope to spread the gift books have given me to other families.
2. What got you into reading?
I grew up as an only child so books were my best friends. They were the only way I could learn about a world outside of myself.
3. If you could only have 5 books what would they be and why?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho this book always inspires me to dream big and follow my passions. Culture Chest is the first company I’ve ever started and I was very nervous in the beginning. There were a lot of things I did not know and I wasn’t sure if anyone would even be interested in our product. The Alchemist is something that I’ve reread multiple times. It encouraged me to follow my passions and believe in myself.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert this book is perfect for anyone pursuing a creative career. The book provides invaluable advice and reminds me to push past the fear.
Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss This book is inspiring, hopeful and honest. A true classic.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie I loved the depth and complexities of all of the characters. It was such a great examination of race in America from the perspective of an immigrant.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes I loved getting to know all of the characters in this story. I don’t want to spoil the book but be prepared to cry.
4. What makes Culture Chest unique?
Culture Chest aspires to celebrate everyone’s culture. We want children to feel good about who they are while celebrating others. Culture Chest is a monthly subscription box service. We deliver carefully-curated books and activities for children ages 3-8. These activities enhance cultural understanding and are tailored for young minds. We want to deliver books to demographics that have been largely underserved by the children’s publishing and toy industry. We also want to support and encourage diverse authors. Representation matters and we want children to know that they are beautiful just the way they are.
5. What are your favorite read alouds?
Hip Hop Speaks to Children by Nikki Giovanni
Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park and Ho Baek Lee
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown
Are We There Yet by Alison Lester
Please Baby Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee