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3 Ways Celebrating Culture Builds Kids’ Self-Identity & Confidence

Talking with JoJo and Gran Gran creator, Laura Henry-Allain MBE, and Noggin Advisor Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith

How do you celebrate your family’s culture?

Helping kids understand and embrace their culture builds their self-identity, inspires curiosity, and teaches them about the world around them. In the series JoJo and Gran Gran, the eponymous characters share their St. Lucian background through food, language, music, art, and holidays.

We were thrilled to sit down with JoJo and Gran Gran series creator, Laura Henry-Allain MBE, to discuss the importance of families celebrating their heritage. Henry-Allain drew inspiration for the series from her close relationship with her own “Mama” or grandmother. Her Mama lived to be 101 years old and taught Henry-Allain about their culture through joyful memories and special traditions.

Storytelling is an important element beautifully woven throughout JoJo and Gran Gran. JoJo learns about her family history through personal stories that her parents, Gran Gran, and Great Gran Gran share about growing up in St. Lucia. Henry-Allain said, “Every child has a heritage, every child has a story, and as a storyteller, I'm a firm believer that we all have a story to share.” (Also, telling stories helps build communication skills, increases vocabulary and comprehension, and fosters creativity and imagination!)

We also spoke with Noggin advisor Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith, who advised us on 3 ways that celebrating our family’s culture can strengthen kids’ development.

Developing Your Child’s Self-Identity

Briscoe-Smith said, “We can support our kids with a sense of belonging and connection by sharing stories of their culture, their history and their family.” When children learn about their heritage, they gain a better understanding of who they are and where they come from. Feeling a sense of belonging plays an important role in developing their self-identity and boosting their confidence.

Cook together: Share a family recipe! Food is an important (and tasty!) way to share ingredients and flavors native to one’s country. Need inspiration? Try baking Great Gran Gran’s Banana Bread.

Great Gran Gran’s Banana Bread

Understanding Community

Henry-Allain’s own Mama was a pillar in her community who connected with neighbors, family, and friends by growing and sharing vegetables and always making time to help others.

Being part of a local community – whether from school, sports, playgroups, place of worship, or your neighborhood – offers children a supportive and positive foundation. It enables them to build friendships, grow confidence, and strengthen valuable social and emotional skills, such as problem solving and helping. Families can get involved in their communities by volunteering, participating in local events and celebrations, and visiting community spaces, like the library.

Watch Together in Noggin: JoJo and Gran Gran: It’s Time to Paint

As JoJo and Gran Gran learn when they rally their neighbors to help paint a wall at the library, big jobs are finished quicker (and are more fun!) when people work together.

JoJo and Gran Gran: It's Time to Paint

Celebrating Diversity

"We can help our children by showing them that differences aren't scary, but rather opportunities for learning, curiosity, and wonder," Briscoe-Smith said. When children learn about their own background, it sparks interest in other cultures as well. Recognizing similarities and differences teaches kids to celebrate different traditions and beliefs, value others, and experience empathy.

Henry-Allain was shocked and delighted that JoJo and Gran Gran was the first Black British animation and "hopes it inspires other creators to show true representation within children’s animation."

"Even though JoJo is third generation St. Lucian, she’s still able to identify and feel St. Lucian as her background through Creole language and food," Henry-Allain said. "She feels proud about her cultural background, [and I hope it encourages] children watching the show to feel proud of their heritage and talk passionately about it."

Watch Together in Noggin: JoJo and Gran Gran: It’s Time to Go to the Hairdresser’s.

This episode is Henry-Allain’s favorite! She said, "It's important for Black children to see Black hair being done and for other children to see it as well." When kids see themselves represented in TV, movies, and books, it helps them identify with characters and boosts their confidence. For children from different backgrounds, watching episodes like this can help them value differences and promote understanding of others.

JoJo and Gran Gran: It’s Time to Go to the Hairdresser’s

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About Ailey

Since its first historic performance in 1958, Ailey has been innovating and evolving the perception of American modern dance throughout the world. Noggin is honored to partner with them in helping kids all over get up moving, learning, and expressing their feelings through dance. Because movement has meaning when we dance how we’re feeling!