Kiribath Publishers ensuring children’s mental wellbeing
By Kusumanjalee Thilakarathna
We know how important it is to take care of our physical health and when there is an ailment in our body, the symptoms are very clear to us most of the time. So it is easy to know when to get help. We know that our mental or emotional wellbeing is just as important as our physical health. But, it is not as easy to know when we should seek help to maintain or improve our mental wellbeing.
Mental health is not only about treating mental illness. Good mental health allows children and young people to develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults. Therefore, it is important to take care of our mental health, taking precautions and knowing when we need to ask for help. One of the best ways to educate ourselves about mental health is to read about it, especially books about mental health written for children.
Kiribath Publishers is an organisation which identified this need and introduced a variety of children’s books to help recognise mental health issues and teach how to cope with difficult situations. Kiribath Publishers is run by Shari de Costa and Sasha Jayamaha and in an interview with Little Stars, Sasha Jayamaha spoke about her new publication “When Parents Argue” and about the work they focus on at Kiribath Publishers.
Tell us about Kiribath Publishers.
Kiribath Publishers is run by Shari de Costa and myself and we started in 2019 when Sri Lanka faced the Easter Sunday bombings. Many children were affected by this terrible and scary situation. The counselling centre I run with my friend Nirmali Dias was asked to assist in the counselling process, but the scope was too large and the trauma was not something we were qualified to handle at the time. So, as a response, we agreed to write a book to help children deal with and process what they were facing. As we observed the response to the books, we began to write more and look for more writers and artists who shared our ideas and vision.
What Kiribath is today has grown organically over time and one thing we try to do is have books available in our country to help children handle hard situations which can affect them emotionally; books to help them love their beautiful island and also help them be more conscious about the world we live in.
One of our goals at Kiribath is to help children love the local languages and have good-quality children’s books for everyone in their respective dialects.
Tell us about yourself too.
I am an economist and a grief counsellor at ASA Counselling Centre. A counsellor is someone who walks with people through difficult situations and gives them tools and skills to cope with their situation. I am also a wife and mother of three beautiful children who are all under the age of five years.
Kiribath is an interesting name for a publishing house. Can you tell us why you picked that name?
Children often think of kiribath (milk rice) as comfort food and that is what we want our books to be – comfort for children.
Why is it important to read about what to do when bad things happen?
Sometimes reading helps us understand and connect with how we feel, which we may not know how to express. Sometimes we can also draw how we feel or talk about it, which is the best thing to do. But there are times we may not be able to do that, so being able to read and understand why we feel so sad helps.
It is not a pleasant thing when our parents argue. Why did you turn this unpleasant topic into a book for kids?
This was something we extracted out of counselling since most adults have been affected by their parents arguing or fighting and they’ve felt scared; not being able to work through how they feel since there was, at times, no one or any tools to help them. This is why this topic was needed. It is a common occurrence for parents to argue even in the best of homes and a huge part of a child’s world is their parents, so when you see your parents argue it can be a very scary and painful experience. But with this book, we can help children understand that adults make mistakes; they are not perfect and though they may argue, their parents love and care for them very much.
What inspired you to write for and work with kids?
My children are my inspiration. This book was dedicated to my 3-year-old son Akel since I watched him process an argument, and after chatting with him I understood what he was going through; I simply wrote this book for him to help him. Most of my books are for my kids and books I want them to have and read as they grow up.
Tell us about your future plans.
We have some books in the pipeline that we are excited about. If you follow our Facebook page or Instagram account you can see everything we are planning.
What books do you have?
Right now we have several books out under Kiribath Publishers. One is “Girl on the Sun” which comes with a colouring book and is a wonderful book about imagination. We have a colouring book called “Colour My Sri Lanka” which depicts a journey around our island. We also have a book called “I Went to Sigiriya” which is a counting book for kids, and one of my favourites is our “Guess Who?” book which talks about animals we see on our island. Most of our books are available in three languages; Sinhala, Tamil, and English.