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Dagenham mum publishes picture book to encourage more black families to explore London

PUBLISHED: 12:00 28 September 2020

Peléna, Ama and Neri reading the 31-year-old's self-published picture book. Picture: Tobi Ayegbusi

Peléna, Ama and Neri reading the 31-year-old's self-published picture book. Picture: Tobi Ayegbusi

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A mum from Dagenham has published a book aimed at encouraging new parents to seek adventures with their children.

Ama hold a copy of her mum's book. Picture: Tobi AyegbusiAma hold a copy of her mum's book. Picture: Tobi Ayegbusi

Peléna Cosme was 25 when she had her first child, Ama, and determined her daughter would have as adventurous an upbringing as her own.

“I was lucky enough to be exposed to travelling, rock climbing, bowling and ice skating from a young age. I wanted that for my own children,” Peléna said.

Venturing out got tougher when Neri was born, and even harder once both daughters were walking and Peléna needed eyes in the back of her head to keep tabs on them.

Although challenges like manoeuvring a double buggy on the Tube proved tricky, the family enjoyed sightseeing trips across the capital, including London Zoo where Peléna’s children’s book is set.

But one thing which struck the full-time mum while exploring the neighbourhood and central London was how few parents of black, Asian and ethnic minority communities were out too.

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Curious to know more, the 31-year-old found a 2016 Edelman Intelligence Report that stated children from those backgrounds did not have as much outdoor play as white children.

The amount of time youngsters spend staring at screens helped fuel her concerns.

In a bid to change things, Peléna wrote Exploring London with Ama and Neri inspired by her daughters’ real life adventures.

“Outdoor play is really fundamental. I don’t just want my children to be academic, but to be brave and bold too.

“With two it was really tough at first, but trips out helped build my confidence,” Peléna said.

Already the picture book with illustrations by Rasheed Yahaya-Zekeri has gained interest from overseas, thanks largely to its Instagram page. It has also been featured in The Voice and on BBC London.

“It’s been really well received. I’ve been surprised by messages coming from America and Africa,” Peléna said.

And a top ten London sights for families as part of the book has seen queries from people thinking of visiting the capital. Though spots in Barking and Dagenham aren’t listed, Peléna has plans for a follow-up to include borough favourites including Barking Park and Jolly Jungle softplay at Becontree Heath Leisure Centre.


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