Author Interview: Carole P. Roman - Cultural Children's Author

Carole P. Roman is a notable author to add to your storytime collection. She writes about pirates, frogs, yoga, and my personal favorite, culture. For an assignment at school, I had to develop a proposal for something within my chosen career that I was passionate about. The American Library Association put out an article from the School Library Media Research journal about bridging cultural gaps in children's literacy. In a nutshell, it suggests that kids are less likely to become strong readers if they can't relate to what they are reading (authors, characters, content, etc.). In 1985, the Cooperative Children's Book Center began documenting such information, and it looks a lot like this (the following chart is one I created for my project):

Roman noticed something else about the world around her. We are constantly surrounded by culture outside our own, but we don't understand how it relates to us. This epiphany inspired her to write the "If You Were Me and Lived In..." books. I love these books because they simplify cultures not just for children, but for adults, too! They are short enough for storytimes, and they allow children of different cultures to relate to what they're reading, while also educating their peers. I believe these books are the beginning of a new era in children's literature, and I hope we continue to see this gap diminish.

During research for my project, I had the opportunity to call Miss Roman and learn more about her aspirations via phone interview. The passion she has for reaching a generation of children and educating them to understand the world around them was evident in her voice. It was incredibly moving for me to hear her story and how she came to act upon her convictions to write about what she felt the world was missing. It inspired me to start a program at the library called "World Travelers" where I aim to educate children about different countries and their cultures.

Please welcome Carole P. Roman to The Indigo Quill with me, and be sure to check out her books for your collection!
Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best of 2012 for her first book, award winning author Carole P. Roman started writing as a dare from one of her sons. Using an imaginary game she played with her grandson as a base, Captain No Beard was born. It has followed with four more books to the series.

Motivated by her love of yoga, Roman has written a book that not only teaches four poses, but shows how easy and accessible yoga can be.
She has just finished the first of six books in a groundbreaking new nonfiction series about culture around the world. "If You Were Me and Lived in..." combines her teaching past with her love of exploration and interest in the world around us.

Writing for children has opened up a whole second act for her. While she is still working in her family business, this has enabled her to share her sense of humor as well as love for history and culture with the audience she adores. Roman lives on Long Island with her husband and near her children.

What inspired you to write multicultural books for children?
I’ve always been interested in different cultures. I have a multicultural background and I was a Social Studies teacher—I graduated as a History major and taught Jr High for a while before I and quit. 

One night, I just thought I should write about what I know. Alexander (my grandson) was in Vegas with me and didn’t understand the concept of different countries. So the first multicultural book I wrote was If You Were Me and Lived in Mexico… (because I lived closest to there).

I asked myself, what is culture and what does it mean? Alex was exposed to cultures but didn’t understand them. He’d ask what the eiffel tower was, and even after telling him, he still did not understand what it was and why it was relevant to him.

What elements do you ensure are included in your multicultural books?
I ask myself questions about what the child should know, such as…
  1. what would you call your parents?
  2. what could your name be?
  3. what a doll would be called?
  4. what would you call school?
I tackle things kids would read and make them understand why it’s diverse.

Where do you find your inspiration for which country you’ll write about next?
Restaurants…I write about what country the places I go inspire. Everywhere I go I notice I’m surrounded by these cultures. Korea, Greece, Kenya, Hungary…etc. We are surrounded by culture in everything we do!

How do the kids respond to learning about different cultures?
Kids are delicious and wonderful, and they love it!  They like to talk about themselves…so if they have some kind of relation or story with it they get excited.

I printed out post cards and would have them write about what they would know or do if they wanted to go there.

What do you hope your books achieve?
I feel the books are really important for tolerance. They give knowledge….the goal is to give children information and not hatred.

When I was a substitute teacher I had my class write down their Thanksgiving menu. The menu always had turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie. But there was always an ethnic dish. These kids are already experiencing culture and they don’t even realize it.

What is one thing you want readers to take away from reading your books?
The most important lesson that comes out of my books is that the world is very large, but  yet it is very small, and we are so connected. If we don’t learn to appreciate the differences and embrace them then the world is not going to be a safe place for our children. There is no better than the other, they are all beautiful! 

Each book has been a labor of love. 

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