A green-fingered mum determined to teach kids about the power of fruit and veg has written a children’s book to educate them on the benefits of healthy eating.
Selina Brown, from Birmingham, wrote and self-published children’s book, Nena: The Green Juice, while looking after her two-year-old daughter during lockdown.
The idea for the self-funded book came after noticing how her daughter, and other young children in her family, were feeling claustrophobic and eating unhealthily while stuck at home.
‘I was hearing the terrifying news reports about the global spread of Coronavirus and how people could be susceptible to it by having a low immune system,’ Selina tells Metro.co.uk. ‘I knew that if my daughter and the children around me continued to eat the way they were eating, there could be serious problems with their health.’
Selina has been a vegan for 11 years and has a strong belief in the power of plant based foods to boost the immune system and provide energy.
Selina’s book explains the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, in a fun and accessible way for children. She also made sure her main character was a Black girl because she is acutely aware of the lack of representation in children’s books.
‘Little Black boys and girls deserve to see themselves in the books they read and little people from all backgrounds need to see the beauty of diversity,’ says Selina.
‘Through reading Black stories, Black children will be able to identify with people that look just like them, which will positively shape and reinforce their own identity. This is why I deliberately created Nena, the main character of my book, to have a big, beautiful, fluffy Afro, I wanted every little black girl to be able to see themselves in her.’
Selina says that it is important for there to be stories that are written by and for Black people – she says this is crucial for an authentic voice to shine through.
‘Black stories written by Black authors are important, as these narratives will be grounded in truths that only we know,’ she says.
‘They will be spoken in an authentic manner. Having more representation in the children’s book space will allow us to speak on a vast range of topics and niches which we are interested in, rather being limited to stories about gangs, music and sport.
‘The beauty of having Black stories is that it also allows young people from other communities to be able to learn and grow, this leads to us have a more inclusive and understanding society.’
Selina believes that healthy eating and nutrition is particularly important for Black and minority communities, who are more vulnerable to certain illnesses, at least in part as a result of health inequalities.
‘We have extremely high rates of illness such as stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and fibroids within our community,’ says Selina. ‘A lot of these health issues are preventable through having a well-balanced diet and an active lifestyle.’
Selina’s grandmother died during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, and a number of her friends also passed away. She says it is more important than ever for the Blcak community to be incredibly conscious about health and well-being.
‘Being surrounded by a high volume of deaths was extremely devastating,’ says Selina.
‘In all honesty, the grief I felt is fuelling my mission to try to reach as many young Black children as possible with my healthy eating message as it is important, now more than ever, that we start looking after our bodies.
‘With a possible second wave coming, we have to ensure that our young children are paying attention to the foods they eat, it’s important that everyone looks after their health and keeps it an optimum level.’
Selina says she grew up in a Jamaican household eating traditional meals – like bullybeef, curry mutton, stew chicken and cow foot – prepared by her grandmother.
‘Although they were delicious meals, there was no real balance,’ she says. ‘The greens, the salad, the veg, the fruits were missing, or it was in very low amounts.
‘It’s really important that every single Black household eats their five fruits and veg a day, however, I really don’t believe that this is the case – which is really worrying.
‘Education starts from the early years, our young children should be taught to be mindful of what they put in their bodies and fully be educated on the notion “you are what you eat”.’
Selina says her daughter is a huge fan of her new book, and that she has already had it read to her around 50 times.
‘She loves the fact she is reading about fruit and veg that we grow in our garden, because of that she definitely relates more to the story,’ she adds.
‘I juice at least three times a week, she now becomes really excited when I get the juicer out the cupboard as she can’t wait to drink the green juice just like Nena.’
Nena: The Green Juice is Selina’s first children’s book and was released on 16 August.
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