Vt. mom’s ‘Little Patakha’ celebrates diversity, inclusion for kids

Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 6:04 PM EDT
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JERICHO, Vt. (WCAX) - While the pandemic caused a lot to stop, one Jericho mom used it as an opportunity to start something new.

It’s called “Little Patakha” and it’s aimed at talking about diversity and inclusion with kids through interactive media. And over the past two years, the message has continued to grow.

Akshata Nayak is a scientist, entrepreneur, nutritionist, community mentor and, above all else, a mom to 4-year old daughter, Ava.

Most recently, she’s added author to that list of accolades.

“It started out with an idea of creating one book for my daughter to introduce her to my language, my native language of Konkani from South India,” Nayak said.

Until recently, Konkani didn’t have a written script to it. It was passed down orally from generation to generation. So, the lack of books in Konkani available in the U.S. should not come as a shock.

What did come as a shock to Nayak was the lack of diversity in all mixed media. She noticed it after moving to the U.S. in 2003.

She began doing research to try to change that. She found that books have more animals as main characters than all minorities combined.

“There were a few numbers that really sort of shook me, and the first one was that by the age of 5 years, social biases about race, gender, appearances, culture set in,” Nayak said.

Using books, games, puzzles and other interactive media, Nayak is working to promote diversity and inclusion in children’s media, before those biases can even set in.

“Our main focus is to promote inclusion and shatter stereotypes, every single product,” Nayak explained.

She calls her brand Little Patakha.

“Patakha means firecracker in Hindi, and so little firecrackers... that’s what kids are. They’re little firecrackers full of potential waiting for a spark of encouragement,” Nayak said.

Some Little Patakha products are in the works like puzzles and affirmation cards. But her books teach kids introductory Hindi and Konkani.

“The unique and interesting part of it is that it has written phonetics using the English language, so if you can speak the English language, you can use the phonetics to read the native script and learn how to say them,” Nayak said.

The books include QR codes you can scan for an audio file of a native speaker saying the words.

Nayak says so far, they’ve been largely successful.

“It gladdened my heart and warmed my heart to walk into Phoenix Bookstores and see that it was a staff pick,” she said.

A surprise for Nayak, but she says this is just the beginning of Little Patakha’s journey.

“Representation is important,” she said. “Not just for those of us who see ourselves reflected, but to everyone, so we can all see different possibilities.”

All of Nayak’s work is crowdfunded and she’s about $9,000 away from hitting her $20,000 goal. Nayak says the support is a clear indicator of how the community feels about her work.

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