Get fit. Get multicultural. Get Kid Yoga Stories!
We were recently writing a story about “visiting” India without leaving home and we were looking for neat ways to introduce kids to yoga. This is what is fun about blogging … look what we discovered trying to write about India … Kid Yoga Stories! They are the coolest. The books are colorful and friendly. Each describes a kid adventure in a particular country. The images are easy to understand and each page has a small yoga icon at the top. The yoga icon shows a picture of a pose. One page, one pose. And the sequence of poses described in each story is designed to provide a well-balanced and safe kid’s yoga class.
So far there are 3 traveling stories, 2 collections of animals (animals and yoga poses simply go together), and even coloring books! In Sophia’s Jungle Adventure, a young girl visits a waterfall in Costa Rica. She spies a toucan, a monkey, a jaguar and a boa constrictor in the jungle. She also witnesses deforestation, and quickly recognizes the destructive effects it can have on local animals and their habitats. In Luke’s Beach Day, we play in the sand, learn about sealife, and clean up the beach. The same friendly, freckled boy, Luke, guides kids through the A to Z of Australian animals – koalas, wombats, and more! You can download free coloring pages for each book at the Kids Yoga Stories website.
These neat books are created by Giselle Shardlow and illustrated by Emily Gedzyk. Giselle notes that she draws from her experiences as a teacher, traveler, yogi, and mom to write these stories. We wanted to learn more about the inspiration for this combination of movement, fun, reading, internationalism, and … even bilingualism. Several of her stories are translated into Spanish. And did we mention that there are coloring books too? We caught up with Giselle and asked her about her own journey.
Ashley: What inspired you to start writing Kids Yoga Stories?
Giselle: Eight years ago, I trained to become a yoga teacher. Right after finishing the training, I got really excited about the idea of integrating the ancient principles of yoga into children’s stories. As a primary school teacher, I thought about how amazing it would be to have children’s yoga books to introduce various countries and environmental issues through movement. I couldn’t stop writing down my ideas, most of them based on my own travel experiences. For example, Sophia’s Jungle Adventure is based on my experience hiking in Costa Rica. The book integrates a kid’s yoga sequence with Sophia’s hike to a waterfall. The readers join her by acting out what she sees along the way, including a toucan, a monkey, and a butterfly. I thought it would be cool to write books that children could act out together, making it fun to read and the story easier to comprehend.
Ashley: Tell us a little about your yoga background and your writing background. It's a neat combination.
Giselle: My yoga background started when I was a young child. My mom used to practice yoga with books and videos in our living room when my brother and I were babies in the 1970s. Then years later, as a young adult, I tried out a number of yoga studios until I found my “home” studio at Samadhi Yoga in Sydney, Australia. My husband and I took their Yoga Teacher Training course together in 2005. We learned that yoga is more than the poses. It’s a lifestyle that includes relaxation, physical postures, character education, positive affirmations, and breathing techniques. I continued practicing yoga throughout my pregnancy. Now as a mom, I practice at home with my two-year-old daughter, using books, yoga cards, videos, and other resources. My husband and I aim to integrate this ancient philosophy into our family life.
My children’s writing background officially began once I decided to start writing the kids yoga stories. I took a course on writing for children in 2006, with a famous Australian children’s author. I have been writing ever since. My writing passion comes directly from my love of books. My mom was a librarian, and she passed on her appreciation for books to her children. As a teacher, I was always looking for quality literature to share with my students. I aim for my writing to be purposeful, contain life lessons, and get children moving along with the story. Ultimately, I want to encourage my readers to create healthy lifestyles for their minds and bodies.
So, I guess you could say that my mom is the source of my yoga and writing inspiration!
Ashley: Many of the books emphasize travel and multiculturalism. I love that they offer kids a window into another culture while simultaneously helping kids stay active and learn new skills. What are your personal goals in sharing these books?
Giselle: My personal goal is to create books that integrate yoga, culture, and literacy. I aim to teach children about various countries to gain an appreciation of different cultures. I believe that it’s important for children to think globally and have an awareness of the celebrations and challenges of people around the world. I’m saddened by the statistics on childhood obesity, and I hope that the kids yoga books offer a way for children to gain body awareness by bending and stretching. We all need physical activity in our lives. Also, I aim to introduce environmental issues to encourage families to talk about the impact of our actions on this planet. My dream is to foster happy, healthy, and globally responsible citizens by impacting one child at a time.
Ashley: Tell us a little about the bilingual books. What motivated you to write some in Spanish?
Giselle: For five years, I worked as a primary school teacher in Guatemala and fell in love with the Spanish language. I first decided to translate Sophia’s Jungle Adventure because it was based on my experience in Costa Rica, where the people speak Spanish. I also wanted to read the Spanish versions of the yoga stories to my daughter. My husband and I have committed to teaching her Spanish, and I believe that learning a language through movement is powerful. Initially, I was just going to translate the Sophia book, but the Spanish versions have been really popular with the Spanish-language learning community, so I decided to translate all of the books. It has been a fun way to integrate yoga, books, and Spanish for our daughter. Customers have been asking for translations into other languages, as well, so we will see what happens in the future!
Ashley: The coloring books seem pretty unique. They are not your run-of-the-mill coloring books, that's for sure! How did you design them? How do you envision that they complement the yoga stories?
Giselle: My illustrator, Emily Gedzyk, has been the creative force behind the coloring books. I gave her a vision, and she ran with it. The purpose of the coloring books is to provide a complementary tool to the yoga books, a way to extend the children’s learning at home. They give the parent or teacher another opportunity to discuss the topics with the children. I love sitting with our daughter, coloring in the yoga books and talking about the animals. It allows us to create a deeper bond. She will often jump up off her chair and do the poses, too. It is a cool way to spark a conversation in a light-hearted way. Also, coloring helps develop children’s fine motor skills. I personally find coloring in to be very therapeutic , a chance to slow down and get my mind off my busy life. And who doesn’t love coloring!
Ashley: Is there anything else you want folks to know about these books? Do you have any new books in the works?
Giselle: While traveling and working as a teacher in different countries, I noticed that it’s not what children have that necessarily makes a difference. If they have access to fun physical activities, social connections, and learning experiences, they tend to flourish. I want to write books that get children moving, learning, and having fun. This is my way of impacting children’s health and literacy around the world.
The next release, Good Night, Animal World is a bedtime yoga story incorporating all six Yoga Kids, who are from six different continents. This book is the first in our toddler/preschool series incorporating first concepts into yoga stories. Watch for our yoga books on counting, colors, and feelings.
Wow! I was impressed by Kid Yoga Stories before the interview, but now I am truly inspired. My own kids took yoga in preschool and they loved it. And, I love the idea of making the world a better place … one kid doing yoga, reading, becoming bilingual, coloring, gaining multicultural awareness, and understanding environmental issues at a time. Purely selfishly, I am also thrilled to hear the positive impact that a mother’s passions can have on her children. My kids are entering the teenage years and it’s hard not to worry about whether we, as parents, are really making an impact. But look at Giselle’s mom! Her passions for yoga and books are making the world a better place through her daughter. What a wonderful gift.
If you’re interested in these neat books, they’re available on Amazon and through www.KidsYogaStories.com. Giselle would value anyone willing to reach out to offer feedback on new books, or offer advice on how to spread her message to every corner of the earth. “It takes a village; this I know for sure. I’d love to hear from you! My email is giselle at kidsyogastories dot com.”