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Aug 21
Beaver Creek Elementary teacher writes children’s book about Sikh traditions

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Grade 5 Beaver Creek teacher Harman Pandher has written his debut children's picture book, Gurpreet Goes to Gurdwara: Understanding the Sikh Place of Worship. The book tells the story of a boy who learns about Sikh culture and traditions through attending gurdwara with his family and feels a sense of community.


A Surrey teacher is hoping his new children’s book will teach people about Sikh traditions and culture, while increasing diversity and representation in children’s literature.

Gurpreet Goes to Gurdwara: Understanding the Sikh Place of Worship is a newly published picture book by Harman Pandher, a Grade 5 teacher and Punjabi language teacher at Beaver Creek Elementary. The book follows a six-year-old protagonist who learns about his family’s culture while attending gurdwara and gains a sense of community through worship.

Pandher’s inspiration for the book dates back to his childhood when he first noticed Sikh culture was underrepresented in media, particularly in the books available to him.

“It planted the seed for me to write this,” he said. “It started growing up as a student and going to school and not really having these books in our library or available to my teachers in my classes. Books that reflected my experience were in short supply.”

While Pandher sharpened his writing skills in high school and university, he said the idea for the book sat in the back of his mind until about 10 years ago, when his son was about six years old – the same as the protagonist – and began really learning about his Sikh heritage.

“When my son was that age, that’s when I actually wrote the basis of this story,” he said. “But I kind of shelved it for a bit – you get busy with life.”

The book remained an idea until recently, when Pandher connected with Surrey artist Gurpreet Kaur Birk, who provided the illustrations for the book and brought it visually to life.

“When I saw her artwork and signature style, it went together perfectly,” said Pandher. “She had that sensibility of a Canadian kid going through the same experiences, the same questions. She was the perfect illustrator for the book.”

Finally, with the recent events of COVID-19, Pandher found himself with the time to make the final push of publishing Gurpreet Goes to Gurdwara, to almost immediate positive reviews.

“The blessing in disguise was this pandemic – everyone was at home and it gave me an opportunity to focus on a passion that I put off,” he said.

“People are reaching out to me personally that they want signed copies. Teachers, teacher-librarians are reaching out to me. It’s been great. Everyone’s kind of saying the same thing, we need more resources like this.”

Pandher notes this is a Canadian story, emblematic of Canada’s diversity, and one that kids can read and see themselves in the book. He said he hopes it inspires others to write their own stories about their traditions and values.

“It’s important for all cultures to share their stories and for parents to impart their traditions and values to their children,” he said. “We learn so much from each other, we learn how much we have in common and we learn about our differences, which really makes us stronger as a community. We’re so lucky to be living in such a diverse country and a community like Surrey.”

Gurpreet Goes to Gurdwara: Understanding the Sikh Place of Worship is available on Amazon.ca, and in the U.S. through Barnes & Noble. It is expected to be available online soon through Indigo in Canada. For more information on the book, or to order copies for schools or other organizations, Pandher can be reached at harmanspandher@gmail.com or 778-835-7898.

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