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Promoting diversity through children’s literature:

February 8, 2018

Made by Raffi is a book written for children about embracing difference. Inspired by a real life incident, the book tells the story of a little boy who loves to knit and sew. At first Raffi is teased for his hobby, but eventually he becomes a hero to his class. Craig Pomranz wrote the book because he wanted to support children who are perceived as different because of their appearance or their interests. This wonderful book is illustrated by award winning artist Margaret Chamberlain.

Made by Raffi is a funny, colourful book with a serious message, and will interest those who care about promoting diversity and embracing our differences. We asked Craig Pomranz about the reasons why he felt compelled to write this book… Craig shared the following thoughts:

Made By Raffi is about a little boy who feels different from other children – he doesn’t like noisy games, rough play.  He discovers knitting and sewing which prompts some teasing.  When he gets the idea of making a project for his class, he becomes a hero.  The kids understand Raffi better and see him for his talent and passion.  Everything changes, and soon everyone wants something that is Made by Raffi!

We are doing our kids and our society a grave disservice when we force young boys into a rigidly defined “masculine” role.

We are doing our kids and our society a grave disservice when we force young boys into a rigidly defined “masculine” role.  Regrettably, today young children are asked to declare who they are and what they like at an early age, thus squelching a perfectly natural aspect of development: “trying on” different ways of being, different identities, different skins.  Why not find out what it feels like to be, say, a loner bookworm who likes to bake brownies or a fashionista or a nurse?

It is not essential for healthy boyhood to be obsessed with sports and competition at all times, but the idea of raising a child gender-neutral scares many parents.  They seem to jump immediately to sexual behavior — but it is not about sexuality!  It is about letting human beings explore every facet of themselves to discover who they are.  That way, they become more whole and secure about how they fit in to the world.  They learn empathy.

Why do we care? The consequences of toxic masculinity are felt throughout society — just look at today’s headlines.  Recent revelations about men depersonalizing women in the workplace as sex objects are only one example.

My godchild, Raffi, often felt different from other boys, and he became a loner. When he learned to sew and knit, he found a passion for something, which made him happy.  Unfortunately, however, he started to be looked at oddly and teased by the other kids.  As I witnessed this unfold, I was reminded about the judgement very young kids feel and how damaging it is.  We all have felt this at some time in life – I certainly experienced this as a boy when I became a professional actor, singer, dancer.  I knew at once I could write a book that might help kids, parents and teachers to find a better way, without fear and embarrassment. The book came together quickly.

My godchild, Raffi, often felt different from other boys, and he became a loner.  When he learned to sew and knit, he found a passion for something which made him happy. Unfortunately, he started to be looked at oddly and teased by the other kids.  As I witnessed this unfold, I was reminded about the judgement very young kids feel and how damaging it is…

In the real-life Raffi’s case, parents and the adults around him showed him how to face judgement with calm acceptance and love.  That is not to say it is easy.  I had watched so many of my friends encourage their kids to pursue non-traditional interests at home, but keep them a secret in public.  They could not see the other message they were sending: that they were also reinforcing conformity and prioritizing it over healthy development.  It takes courage to fight social control – parents also hear criticism from their families and peers, and of course they want to protect their kids. I imagine a world where we empathize with one other by recognizing others’ behavior as similar to our own.  Where we have the freedom to express ourselves however we wish, without judgement.  A world where empathetic communication between one other is second nature.

It takes courage to fight social control – parents also hear criticism from their families and peers, and of course they want to protect their kids.

Craig Pomranz is an internationally known singer/song-stylist, actor… and now author.  Made By Raffi is his first children’s book with illustrations by award-winning artist Margaret Chamberlain.  The book is published in eight languages and distributed in eleven countries so far.  Craig received New York’s MAC Award for Best Male Vocalist in 2012 and this year is nominated as “Best Major Artist: Male”. Craig attended Carnegie-Mellon University and The Goodman Theatre – The Art Institute of Chicago. He lives in New York City. Tweet Craig @MadeByRaffi
You can purchase Made by Raffi at Booktopia, Walker books & through Amazon. You can also listen to the song ‘Different’ by award winning composers Amanda McBroom (Bette Midler’s award-winning song The Rose) and Michele Brourman (The Land Before Time series) who wrote the song after they were inspired by reading Made by Raffi.

Post By Thea Hughes (19 Posts)

Thea spent more than a decade working in a heavily male-dominated industry, inspiring her to begin her formal studies in gender at Sydney University and to found Play Unlimited. As a parent, she is passionate about diminishing the impact of gender-based marketing on the next generation.

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