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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
“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
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 email@example.com or 778-835-7898.