Ajax mother and Kids Swag founder creates resource guide to diversify books and toys
TORONTO -- When Kimberlee West was pregnant with her first daughter eight years ago, she went shopping at a book store to start a collection for her child.
“When I entered I realized they didn’t have any books for kids with Black images and that seemed a little crazy to me,” West tells CTV News Toronto.
“And it was that moment of realization of - wait a minute, my children are about to go through the same thing I did, where I didn’t see myself and I didn’t feel like I was good enough. This can’t be.”
It’s what inspired her to start Kids Swag – an online store dedicated to helping parents raise confident kids that appreciate differences. West has since partnered with a number of different brands from around the world.
“We have swim caps that are for large-volume hair like myself, we have backpacks and beautiful notebooks,” she said. “The whole idea, especially for Black youth, is to see themselves and know that they can also be superheroes or ballerinas or princesses.”
Kids Swag has been around since December 2016, but West says she’s seen a surge in interest from parents over the last few weeks.
“It’s been immense. I get messages all the time,” she said. “A lot of mothers, non-Black mothers have reached out and said, I now acknowledge that there’s something here but I don’t exactly know what I can do.”
One of the mothers who reached out was Zoe Share.
“When George Floyd was murdered, I was very upset. And I looked around my child’s playroom and thought ‘I’m not doing good enough,’” Share told CTV News Toronto. “I felt guilt, I felt ashamed. I should know better. I should be representing more people in the toys and books that surround me.”
Share, who has a young daughter, said that West was ‘very gracious’ in guiding her to resources that could help. Their conversation also inspired a resource guide for other parents called ‘how to diversify your book and toy collection.’
“It really solved what I was looking for,” Share said. “Kim has put together all these beautiful opportunities for us to support black business.”
In addition to sharing access to brands and business owners, the guide also includes ways to have important conversations with children at home.
“It really talks about this idea of mindful representation, and this is how you sort of start off the conversation with a child,” West explained. “It also has resources for parents themselves so that they can learn more about this idea of allyship and how to support the community.”
Share says West’s guide on ‘how to diversify your book and toy collection’ is making it easier for families to learn, and un-learn, in what may be an uncomfortable time.
“She is the calm in this storm, and I think she’s going to guide a lot of families to knowing how to be more inclusive,” Share said. “She’s showing children the beauty of all the people around us. She’s changing the world.”