When Harman Singh Pandher was growing up in Burnaby, B.C., he noticed there were not many characters in children's books that looked like him or shared his family traditions — so, decades later, he has gone ahead and written his own.
Pandher's debut picture book, Gurpreet Goes to Gurdwara: Understanding the Sikh Place of Worship, tells the story of a six-year-old Canadian boy who goes somewhat reluctantly to gurdwara with his family on Sundays until he learns more about his religion and culture and grows more enthusiastic about it.
Now a father and elementary school teacher in Surrey, B.C., Pandher said it is helpful for children's self-esteem to see that their stories matter and he hopes his effort inspires other writers from different cultures and walks of life to do the same.
He said the book, which is on sale now, is also his contribution to the current global outcry concerning systemic racism.
"We really need to actively do the anti-racist work to make a difference," said Pandher. "This is my small effort in that regard."
The book's colourful and playful images are courtesy of Surrey illustrator Gurpreet Kaur Birk.
Pandher said it is designed to be relatable, accessible and fun as much as it is educational.
"We can never overestimate the power of a good book to change, to change the life of a child, to transform the way people think," said Pandher. "And some of the best learning happens when kids don't even know that they're learning."
The newly minted author told CBC on Wednesday that there are plans for a second book in the works and to stay tuned for the upcoming tale of Gurpreet's adventures at school.