A FATHER from Penarth has written a set of books to help his children.

Suhmayah Banda writes and self-publishes stories to help his mixed-race sons see people like themselves in everyday situations.

Black/minority ethnic (BME) characters are rare in children’s stories – a 2017 report from the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education saw one per cent of UK children’s books had a BME main character, and four per cent included BME background characters.

“I don’t want to generalise too much – but if there’s a BME character it’s usually in service to a social cause,” said Mr Banda, who is originally from Cameroon. “There’s rarely a black character in black stories everyone can still relate to.

“I didn’t want my kids to grow up feeling they’re ‘othered’ in any way.”

Mr Banda has three children – Tancho, aged 8, Charlie, aged 6, and Matthew, aged 2.

“Their heritage hasn’t been a huge problem for them previously – race doesn’t register with them yet. They haven’t had any unpleasant encounters.

“But it’s inevitable as a person of colour, whether they see something on the news or it happens in a social environment.

“Before it gets to that point they should consciously or subconsciously have enough references to their own self worth in media, be it movies, books, or cartoons to handle it.”

Mr Banda was spurred into writing by a comment made by Tancho after school. “I don’t know if it was a book or a lesson, but Tancho made a very generalised comment – he said they have no water in African homes so they have to walk really far.

“I told him: ‘You know Africa is not a country right? They all have their own experiences the same way Europe is made up of a lot of different countries.

“It worried me. Especially being Cameroonian, living in a culture that isn’t mine, and with my kids growing up between two heritages.

“I didn’t want them looking down on one half of their heritage. I wanted to pay them a fuller narrative.”

No major publishers have picked up the books yet. “I was disheartened early on in the process. One publisher advertised themselves as being very inclusive.

“I reached out to them but was disappointed by their feedback – all they said was a children’s book is 32 pages long. It felt like you can only be a BME author if you conform to these standards. Really, if you’re trying to promote diversity in publishing you should look outside the box!”

The books use the personal experiences of the boys as inspiration. “Two years ago we travelled around Europe. We found a caravan and went exploring, and the books have been inspired by our adventures – the first being Charlie the Fearless and Tancho the Brave.

“They’re all about courage, and being brave enough to admit when something scares you. They focus on looking out for one other, and how love makes you brave.

“A Place to Call Home deals with the anxiety of moving, and the unknown, as we travelled and settled in Penarth.

“They’re about making the best of situations – there are little anecdotes in every story, like the time we broke down in north France. It was the boys’ optimism that helped us through situations like that and I wanted to reflect that.”

The books are carried in Griffin Books on Windsor Street, Penarth on Amazon.