Sherelle Gaston was leading a children’s ministry in her church when she realized, more strongly than ever, that children’s story books were simply lacking in diversity. She wanted to make biblical stories come alive for her own children and for the kids she was teaching in church, but there just wasn’t very much out there for her to work with.
“If you can’t find the book that you want, write it,” says Gaston, citing one of her favorite quotes. Gaston, who is married to local minister Tawann Gaston Sr., did further research on the lack of representation of Black children in books and was shocked at what she found. “In children’s books for ages four to about ten years old, they’re more likely to have teddy bears and animals than they are to have children of color. It’s 51 percent Caucasian and 29 percent teddy bears. It is nine percent African American. It’s outrageous.”
Gaston founded her publishing company, Greatest in the Kingdom, in 2019 and she has been a prolific children’s book author ever since. Her first trilogy— aimed at ages four to ten years old— focuses on the biblical concepts surrounding the trinity through three illustrated books: Jesus is my Best Friend, My Favorite Gift and Talking to My Dad.
The author has two sons, T.J. (ten) and Terelle (nine), both of which are featured in the trinity trilogy, along with a little girl who is the main character in My Favorite Gift. Gaston hopes that her mission in creating Greatest in the Kingdom books will continue to inspire other authors to join suit in promoting diversity.
“I’m hoping to help other authors of any race that are like minded because it’s about children and allowing them to see themselves in books,” she says.
Join the squad
Fans of Gaston’s work can also look forward to her latest— Mermaid Squad— a story inspired by her own childhood love of a certain Disney film coupled with the company’s recent decision to cast a woman of color as Ariel in the live action version that is set to debut this year.
“My mermaid just wants to know if there are other mermaids who are different from her out there in the ocean,” explains Gaston. “And, as she goes throughout the day, guess what she finds out? There are mermaids out there who look just like her and different from her as well.”
For Gaston, the aim of her writing is two-fold. One certainly pertains to religious teachings, but the other is to simply let kids know through representation in books that they are special enough to be included. Her coloring books (The Faith Defenders) include differently abled children along with kids of all different races. She also diligently works on getting her work translated into other languages, beginning with Spanish (Jesus es Mi Amigo is available now), and different French dialects that can be found in many African countries.
“I am focusing on one book at a time with the hope that all children begin to see themselves in books,” says Gaston. “That’s really my passion behind it. I just couldn’t find any books that look like my kids and that tap into things that I want to teach them. Everyone is allowed to be in the kingdom. God loves us all equally.”
Find Sherelle Gaston’s books at sherellegaston.com and on Amazon. You can also follow her on Instagram for the latest news on her releases, both @sherellegaston and @thegreatestinthekingdom.