We know that at this time of year, you are likely putting together a bonanza of gifts (preferably with some CultureBaby goodies thrown in there) to wow your little one on Christmas day. But how about giving them a little wow every month...a book that seems to speak directly to them. Enter Zoobean! Zoobean expertly curates books that are personalized to your child's age, interests and reading level. So if you are looking to find stories speaking to their burgeoning interest in the world...Zoobean has done the legwork for you.
Is it any surprise then to find a mom and dad team behind this clever operation? We sat down with one half of the founding duo of Zoobean, Jordan, to ask her to be our December CultureBaby mom and tell us more about how the company came about!
(p.s - Jordan has kindly offered CultureBaby readers a chance to win a free 3-month Zoobean subscription. If you'd like to enter to win, you must Like Zoobean on facebook AND be subscribed to our CultureBaby newsletter. Not subscribed yet? We can fix that! Just click here to sign up between now and the end of December). The winner will be notified in January.
Where do you live now and with whom?
I live in Washington, DC with my husband (aka Chief Dad at Zoobean), and our two children.
We understand that you started Zoobean when you were looking for a book that talked about adding a new baby to a bi-racial family to read to your toddler. Tell us more about the company now and how it stays true to that founding story?
Our son received a book in the mail from one of our friends. As it happened, the family in the book, All the World, was a family that looked just like ours. It was addressed to him, and he was so excited when it arrived. We all loved the book. It's a beautiful story, with the type of rhythmic verse that really appealed to him. And when I read it to him, he kept pointing to the boy saying, "me, me. That me, Mommy." It was incredibly powerful, and he had never done that with a book until the day we read that one. It sparked the idea for Zoobean. What if we could deliver this experience at scale for families everywhere? What if someone could find just the right book for any child. As educators and parents, we knew how amazing that could be, and the ability we might have to increase engagement, build literacy, and inspire imagination in kids around the country...and one day, world!
We know books can be a great tool to discover worlds we may not know. Why do you feel it is also important that children see themselves in their books?
There is a common phrase when talking about picture books. They represent both the window and the mirror for a child. Of course, it is critical for us to use books, film, and other media as mechanisms for showing our children the world, and simply experiences other than their own. But it is similarly important that our kids see images that reflect them, especially in what they read. Literature is a vehicle for helping children understand who they are and their place in the world. In this sense, children's books must also serve as a mirror so that kids of all types understand their place in society. There is a great deal of data that tells us kids' self-esteem and engagement with literature is markedly higher when they see images that reflect their own experiences, too. It really is common sense, you know? If we want our kids to imagine and achieve anything, we have to be able to show them examples of people like them who are at the center of stories they read.
We all know that the entrepreneurial journey can be made or broken based on your choice of partner....What is it like working day to day with your husband!
To be honest, this isn't new for me, or for us. While I was in business school, my friends and I wrote the business plan for our first company, now called MoneyIsland. At that time, we were just about to get married and decided it would be best for one of us to take on a consistent position. I ended up working at Google, and he took on MoneyIsland (then called Skill-Life) at the same time. We worked closely together through that entire process and learned how to make sacrifices and difficult decisions together. Now, with Zoobean, we have that foundation to guide us. Felix and I have quite complementary skills, and we love working together. Personally, I don't mind waking up and going to bed talking about business, but we do have to be intentional about making sure we separate work, especially time on the computer, from our family time!
As an educator, how do you feel about the importance of global education for kids both in and before school? How do you feel about teaching lessons of tolerance and diversity as a mom?
I grew up in Des Moines, IA, but I never felt tied to that particular place. Why? Because my parents exposed me to different people, cultures, and places since a very young age. Before YouTube or easier ways of showing kids the world, they were committed to it. I take these lessons to heart as a mom. And as someone in an interfaith and interracial family, I'm committed to inclusion in almost every facet of my life. Right now, global travel isn't in the stars for us. It's costly, and travel with our kids is painful! But, technology gives us the power to expose our kids to so much so easily. We spend hours using Google Earth to "travel the world," and use many of our own books to jumpstart conversations about kids and families around the world.
Our kids are in preschool now, but our intention is to teach them other languages from a young age. I'm heartened by the increasing number of public school options available to parents like us to make this a reality. More than language, it's critical that our kids see themselves in a global context. In this way, we can show our kids the different ways in which people live, and also the commonalities that bind us. One of my favorite books to build this awareness from a very young age is, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, a lovely book about the common bonds that kids across the world share.