Two aspiring medical health professionals have started a book series called Twin Tales, aimed at highlighting diversity, communicating health information and helping children learn to become more inclusive.
“We wanted to play a positive role, specifically in encouraging people to get vaccinated,” said Swathi Anphalagan, one of the co-creators of the book series and student in London.
Anphalagan was inspired to create the book with her sister after they both volunteered at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Brampton. It was there that they saw the need to communicate health information to children whose lives were drastically changed by the pandemic.
They published their first book called, “Ahana Got A Vaccine” in the summer of 2021. It tries to tell children why vaccines are important and acknowledges fears they might have about needles.
The twins didn’t stop there. They have written and self-published a total of four books so far through Amazon. Two of the books deal with vaccines, and the other two deal with being accepting of people with skin conditions and disabilities.
In fall 2021 they entered a Bright Ideas Pitch competition, where groups and individuals wanting to create social change could pitch their ideas to judges and win grant money of up to a $1,000. They used the money to build their website and donated 15-20 of their books to two schools in Sri Lanka.
A need for representation
“Our ethnic origin is Tamil, from a Sri Lankan background, so that’s why we wanted to give back to our cultural and ethnic community,” Anphalagan said, adding that she also wanted kids that looked like her to have representation in the books that they read.
Anphalagan said her parents connected them with teachers in Sri Lanka, who were appreciative of the books; many mentioned it was important to share representational books with their students.
A key element of all of their books is diversity.
“As individuals from a minority community, we don’t really see ourselves in literature or children’s books even,” said Shurabi Anphalagan, the co-creator of Twin Tales.
“That was something we wanted to eliminate with our books, by including characters from all types of background,” she said, adding that the characters in the books have diverse ethnic names.
Not seeing yourself represented in literature can subconsciously impact your confidence, choices and even media consumption, Shurabi Anphalagan said.
The twins also donated their books to a school in Scarborough this spring. They virtually read their books to three classrooms there, and held workshops to help boost the student self esteem.
“We thought that it might be a resource for them to learn positive values of resilience and acceptance, as well as become role models and health advocates for young children around the world,” said Swathi Anphalagan.