Q&A: Dr. Bashi
I was a graduate student in New York when I became a mother and was inspired by the abundance of children’s educational and art venues in the city. I’d constantly come across wonderful books and educational toys but had a hard time finding any Persian children’s books, let alone educational toys. This made me look into the state of children’s education and literacy in my area of expertise, namely the Middle East. As a child in Iran myself, I had a difficult school start, for learning the Persian alphabet, diction and math all seemed like a punishing exercise. I believe that my negative experiences could have easily been avoided. Because with the right tools and stimulation, nearly all children are capable of visually memorizing the core elements such as the alphabet, numbers, shapes and basic cognitive concepts years before kindergarten/school-start.
So last year I took a leap of faith and fulfilled my dream of making the very materials I wanted for my own children.
2) Book Culture recently hosted a launch party for the Arabic and Persian block sets. What makes these sets different from other similar products?
I was very happy that we could have our first official launch event in Book Culture! Frequenting Book Culture both as a student and later as a mother was instrumental in the realization of our venture!
What makes our sets different from other similar products is that our blocks are ethically-made in Vermont, USA (no one is hurt making them) and of premium quality, which means they are made to last generations. When parents or a school purchases a set of Dr. Bashi blocks, they are also buying it for the next generation of children and their children…we guarantee it! Furthermore unlike the lindenwood and basswood alphabet blocks commonly found in the market, our blocks are suitable for children 1 years of age and older, they are made of sustainably sourced American hard maple wood – lacquered and painted with non-toxic ink–which creates a solid, non-splintering toy that is safe around the edges. This is particularly important as children under 3 tend to bite toys and lindenwood blocks are known to splinter (small chunks of wood can be bitten off) and lose their color fairly quickly.
Secondly, when you take into account that every square cube has 6 sides to it, you realize that each side of a wood block is prime time real estate! So you don’t want to waste it!
On just 1 side for instance, we have added 2 combined educational components– color and geometric shape for children of all ages to learn—so when you add a triangle why not color it, and add the name of the color too—so e.g. red triangle instead of just red or triangle?
So both our Persian and Arabic block sets offer 10 different colors and 11 geometric shapes, as well as the entire Arabic or Persian alphabet and all their conditional forms, vowels and numbers, basic math symbols, useful sight-words, the four seasons, and weather types, and even the 5 senses (for the Persian). The typography, choice of words and illustrations on our blocks are unique, artistically-exciting and wherever possible race and gender conscious—created in close consultation with scholars in the field.
So our blocks are packed with education and help with developing fine and gross motor skills and cognitive concepts, while also promoting parent/teacher-child interaction.
It is important to keep in mind that while in Europe and North America, ABC wood blocks for children have been part of every home, nursery and elementary school’s inventory for centuries, this has not been the case for Persian and Arabic speaking regions. So when I decided to venture into the field of children’s products, I wanted to make the best ABC block ever made–surpassing 300 years of experimentation with English or French wood blocks, both in terms of material but also content.
3) It is rather remarkable how much Dr. Bashi has accomplished, all while you maintain a full life as a scholar and as a mother. How do you do it?
Thank you for your kind comment! We have just begun our work. Parenthood and full-time work is always a challenge. I personally had to wait until my children were older before I could begin this venture. They have both finished preschool now.
4) Dr. Bashi will be hosting a Persian language story time on Saturdays at Book Culture on Broadway. What can parents expect for their children from these story times?
Persian storytime is a partnership between Dr. Bashi™ and Book Culture, a free program for the advancement of Persian literacy, language and heritage. My own children grew up attending story time in Book Culture’s 114th location. We’d pop in during story time even in languages we don’t speak because it was a chance for the kids to meet and play with other children and listen to an engaged adult reading from colorful books.
What parents can expect for their children from Persian story time is engaged and playful readings from a carefully selected list of beloved Persian children’s stories, both modern and medieval. It will also be a time for families and our children to come to Columbia campus, get to know each other, and have fun. I’d love to offer movie-time called something like “Persian n’ Popcorn” for older children with the option of writing and discussing the films or TV series we’ve watched. Hint hint, Book Culture ; )
5) Are there any other products currently in the works? What can we look forward to from Dr. Bashi?
We are working on a Persian-English children’s books project that we hope to launch next year. We are also working on offering our blocks in a number of other languages such as Urdu, Hebrew, Swedish and even English! Our capabilities to make educational toys in any world language or in any particular theme (chemistry, geography, botany, history, stories and much more) are endless. Hopefully with more visionary investors on board, we can realize our full potential.
6) Where can people find out more about Dr. Bashi?
http://www.drbashi.com and follow us on our Facebook, Twitter (@Dr_Bashi), instagram (@dr_bashi), YouTube, and pinterest channels. And come to Persian story time on Saturdays at 2:30 PM in Book Culture on 114th Street, New York, NY.
Questions by Cody
Entry filed under: Book Culture on Broadway, Kids, Neighborhood News, Q & A, Shop Local. Tags: Arabic, Columbia University, Dr. Bashi, Goldbarg Bashi, Iran, kids, Middle East, Persian, Persian Story Time.