Guest post by Raya Rahman
As a person of Bangladeshi origin raising children in North America, I found myself among the vast numbers of expat or immigrant parents whose kids started losing their native language. Over the last decade of my older daughter’s life (she just turned 10!), I watched in slow motion dismay as she became stronger in English and further alienated from Bangla, the language we spoke at home. As proud as I was of her eloquent English speaking and writing skills, I must admit that I was also sad that she did not possess the same fluency in the language that I considered to be an important part of her identity.
Watching my daughters grow up I witnessed first hand how great quality content, both print and digital, enabled young children to rapidly acquire languages. This observation and the urge to connect my kids to their roots was the driving force behind the creation of a bilingual publishing company I co-founded with a childhood friend, Inshra Russell, who worked as a talented artist, storyteller and content creator in London, England.
Guba Publishing was born in November 2017 with a line of books, flashcards and posters aimed at children aged 0 to 8 years old. Guba creates original content with appealing, high quality illustrations, fun stories and excellent print quality to invoke a child’s natural desire to read and learn. Our debut picture book Tiny Jumps In was written and illustrated by co-founder Inshra Russell and tells the story of a little girl’s empowering underwater adventure. Packed with imaginative creatures of vibrant colors and featuring a relatable protagonist, both boys and girls have come to love the book and have already been asking about Tiny’s next adventure at author events.
Transliterations and English pronunciations of Bangla words also play a major role in Guba board books and flashcards to help make learning more approachable for English speaking children and their parents. Our line of baby board books feature simple concept words in English and Bangla in the themes of nature (My Beautiful World), colors (My World of Colors) and opposites (My World of Opposites).
Adorable images such as in the Bengali Alphabets Flashcards, Bengali Alphabets Poster and Counting Bugs Flashcards, have helped younger children to pick up bilingual letters, numbers and popular words from everyday life, while the Where in the World? A-Z flashcard set is a great resource for older kids to learn about geography and cultures around the world.
The overarching mission of our publishing initiative is to expose children to languages, diversity and different perspectives through thoughtfully created content. We have started with Bangla but have ambitions to include other languages in the future.
A lot of people have asked where we found the unique name Guba. As a child, I never tired of watching the classic children’s film ‘Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen’ by legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray! Most Bengali children loved the hilarious adventures of Gupi and Bagha, from the marvelous songs, to the eccentricities of the main characters, to the long and captivating segment of the dance of the ghosts. Not to mention the iconic ‘bhooter raja’ (king of the ghosts) voiced by none other than Mr. Ray himself!
So how does this relate to Guba Publishing? Though the initiative was inspired by the need to expose our kids to their origins, the foundation for the idea lay in our childhood memories. And as far as memorable characters go, Gupi and Bagha are unbeatable. So when it came down to the important decision of naming the company, we borrowed a bit of Gupi and a bit of Bagha – and created Guba!
Inspired by one maestro storyteller, we now hope that Guba Publishing can be an effective platform for diverse storytellers of the future. We aspire to publish these stories to not only connect children to their roots, but also to help them see different perspectives so they may grow up to create more tolerant and inclusive societies.
After a decade of working in the corporate world on adult sounding topics such as "bids", "proposals" and "corporate governance", Raya Rahman is now happily fulfilling her passion of running a book publishing house for non-adults. She lives in Oakland, California with her husband and their two spirited daughters, who were her two main inspirations for starting Guba Publishing.