Akshata Nayak is the Vermont-based entrepreneur, scientist and mom behind Little Patakha, a new company focused on promoting diversity and inclusion through interactive children’s media. Little Patakha (Hindi for “firecracker”) was born during the early days of the pandemic, after Nayak, who grew up in Bangalore, India, realized that when she addressed her then two-year-old daughter, Ava, in her native language of Konkani, Ava would reply in English.
To help Ava learn Konkani, Nayak initially decided to create a picture book using phonetic cues and illustrations to teach the language. But what started out as a personal project on behalf of her daughter soon grew into something bigger.
Already well aware of the lack of diversity and representation in children’s media, Nayak was galvanized by the racial unrest of the summer of 2020 to do more to expose young minds to “diverse worlds, ideas, sounds and people they wouldn’t normally encounter.” Familiar with research that shows preschoolers form social biases by the age of 5, she set out to create stereotype-shattering products geared toward children aged 0 to 5.
“At Little Patakha, we believe that representation matters, not only to those who see themselves reflected but to everyone, so we can all see new possibilities,” Nayak wrote on her recent Kickstarter campaign.
In an interview with CLiF, Nayak stressed the importance of not limiting the representation of diverse characters to stories focused solely on the challenges and adversity they may face.
“They can be the protagonists of regular stories. The stories do not have to be that they always overcome something,” she said.
In addition to Nayak’s two self-published picture books, one in Konkani, one in Hindi, Little Patakha offers a doll, sticker sets and a coloring book. The company is working on an expanded product line after raising over $20,000 on Kickstarter this spring.
New products, currently available for preorder, include a mix-and-match jigsaw puzzle featuring 10 diverse characters and 10 professions, and a set of affirmation cards featuring inclusive illustrations that teach young people to believe in themselves. Down the line, Nayak hopes to publish a series of science books featuring diverse families and characters.
At CLiF, we work hard to make sure children at our events will see themselves represented in the books we offer at giveaways and in books chosen for on-site libraries. We commend Akshata Nayak and Little Patakha on the important work they’re doing, and look forward to seeing what comes next!