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Tiffany Jana is a woman of many talents. The mother of three, who uses the pronouns they/them, is an entrepreneur, author, actor, and artist. Their newest creative endeavor, StoryTime with Doc Jana, has Jana reading children’s books on their YouTube channel Life with Doc Jana.
“I love children’s books and I had a collection of books that were representative of different cultures. Parents have asked, ‘How do I talk to my kids about race?’ I always say start with age-appropriate education,” says Jana.
Jana has produced five story-time videos, starting with The Skin You Live In, a lively picture book that talks about human diversity and social acceptance. They chose that book because it “expresses and showcases different colors of skin. It explains we are all beautiful whatever skin we are in and together, we make an amazing rainbow of colors,” Jana says.
As the founder of TMI, the world’s first certified benefit corporation with a diversity and engagement focus, Jana has a great deal of experience helping companies with organizational equity, unconscious bias, diversity, empowerment, and inclusion.
Their storytime series at Life with Doc Jana allows them to combine many of their disparate interests.
“When you take the corporate work that I do and mold it with children and acting, it’s something that brings me absolute joy,” they say. “Communicating with children about matters of the heart is some of the most important work in the world. I’m sharing my heart and what I have learned.”
Jana produced the videos for children nine and under, but many parents say they are enjoying the readings as much as their children. “They are actually for children of all ages,” they say. “It’s as much about entertaining and educating children as it is educating parents.”
They want to continue the series – either weekly or monthly – throughout the year to provide an educational, fun outlet for families. “I was a stay-at-home mom when my children were little [Jana has a 12-year-old daughter, a daughter who is a rising senior at Harvard, and a son who just graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University]. I wanted to be the mom that I wanted to be and be around,” they say. “My heart goes out to parents of children who have to be isolated right now.”
Jana hopes to give exhausted parents a break and offer some joy to children who are not “able to access the freedom they once knew or have a birthright to as a child,” they say. “I just wanted to give something back. My sweet spot is talking to children about racism and keeping it age appropriate.”
When Jana was growing up, they found there were virtually no books for “brown people,” says Jana, who is a person of color.
Jana wants children who hear the stories they read to know they are loved and beautiful no matter the color of their skin – that children are “exactly wonderful as they are,” they say. “I want to normalize the difference across the board.”
After starting the reading series, Jana realized that they had given away many of their family’s children’s books and a new supply of books was needed. In addition to purchasing new books, they are looking for books that people can lend them to read. (They prefer picture and board books.)
“I need a supply of books,” they say, adding that people can drop off books and they will disinfect them, read them online, and prepare them for pickup by their owners. “It’s been great,” they say of the response. “People on social media have made recommendations of books and I have my first couple of deliveries. Folks are now delivering many inclusive children’s stories.”
This reading project reflects Jana’s longtime focus on service and community. “I have the good fortune to wake up every morning and do work that matters,” they say.
In addition to story time readings, Jana offers parenting strategies for talking to kids about racism on their YouTube channel. Watch this 11-minute segment exploring the racism kids encounter during online gaming: Life with Doc Jana.