In the Baha’i Faith we know that “Children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, for in them are the promise and guarantee of the future”,1 so there’s no doubt that coming up with creative and meaningful ways to support our children is important, and that’s why I couldn’t wait to do a post about Brilliant Star!
Brilliant Star is an award-winning Baha’i-inspired children’s magazine and website aimed at children of all faiths, and invites them to explore concepts based on principles central to the teachings of the Baha’i Faith, like encouraging their development as world citizens, their appreciation for cultural and racial diversity, peace among all religions and nations, the equality of women and men, and the elimination of prejudices.
The magazine really had a profound effect on me when I was a child, and I remember how I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it whenever a new issue came out. Now, some 45 years on (yep, Brilliant Star first started in 1969 as Child’s Way and then became Brilliant Star in 1983), Brilliant Star continues to publish six times per year with subscribers in over 40 countries, coming from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and faiths.
I decided to touch base with Brilliant Star’s Editor and Creative Director Amethel Parel-Sewell, to find out more about this wonderful resource:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell me a little about Brilliant Star and what it aims to achieve?
First, I want to thank you, Naysan, for inviting us to talk with you. It’s an honor to have this chance to share Brilliant Star’s mission with your readers. We appreciate it very much!
Now, on to your question — Brilliant Star is an international children’s magazine and website published by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the U.S. Our goal is to empower kids with the tools and encouragement to become happy, engaged citizens of our planet. We want kids to know that they’re awesome, noble, creative beings who can make a difference in the world. We want them to know that they’re vital to saving Earth and humanity, which are both in peril.
Brilliant Star is created primarily for kids ages 8-12, though many readers are younger or older than that range.
Someday, our young readers will grow up to be leaders in their families and communities. When they become parents, teachers, scientists, architects, coaches, musicians, athletes, writers, or whatever it is that inspires them — they’ll be doing something to influence others. They’ll have the power to do something positive, as much as they’ll have the power to do something negative. In Brilliant Star, we emphasize the power of being mindful of the many choices you can make in life. You can choose to do something to make a difference and shine your light, or you can just sit idly in the shadows.
The Universal House of Justice (in its Ridvan 2010 message) talked about the state of “passivity” being bred by today’s society. As a global community, we have to develop a culture that promotes active thinking and doing, toward a path of service. In Brilliant Star, we aim to help build a spiritual foundation during the developmentally critical years of growth, so that no matter what career our readers pursue, and no matter what challenges they face, their internal compass will guide them.
Baha’i Blog: I loved reading Brilliant Star magazine as a kid, and the fact that the initiative is now online is awesome! Why was this an important step?
We created Brilliant Star Online with the understanding that today, any publication for kids must embrace the digital era and have an engaging presence online. Digital and mobile devices have been integrated into many aspects of our lives, as well as in education. Schools are transitioning to curriculums that rely heavily on technology.
But Brilliant Star’s website initiative actually began in 2005, when the Universal House of Justice convened an exploratory conference to address the dire need for a children’s website. I had the honor of participating in the conference, and it rocked my world with inspiration and an urgent sense of purpose. I remember my heart racing when the guidance from the House was read aloud. They conveyed their concerns about the negative impact that the Internet was having on children around the world. They asked us to embark on a “pioneering effort” to envision a website that would encourage spiritual and moral development and stimulate the “love of learning” and the “joy of discovery.”
After the conference, it was evident we needed to take action for our readership at Brilliant Star. We began years of research and development for the website while producing the print magazine in tandem.
Baha’i Blog: What’s the feedback been like so far? Are kids enjoying it?
The feedback has been great so far. Just after our initial launch, the website received a 2014 DeRose-Hinkhouse award from the Religion Communicators Council. Brilliant Star Online was praised for its consistent style and clear educational content, and how the kid’s site encourages exploration, while the section for parents and teachers is more straightforward.
Just recently, I was reading feedback about our website from a 12-year-old reader. She said: “Brilliant Star is an empowering way to connect with other Baha’is around the world; I feel like I’m part of a community when I read it. It’s hard here where I live as I am one of two Baha’i junior youth in the whole town, so I often feel isolated, but Brilliant Star gives me a boost; a sort of reason to keep going! There are bright plans for the future, and things I can do right now to make a difference.”
We LOVE getting input from readers. It fuels our efforts, especially through the late nights and weekends during deadline!
This is a great question. Some people underestimate the need for age-appropriate materials to nurture kids’ spirits. They also underestimate the amount of focused effort and multidisciplinary resources needed to create dynamic content for specific age groups and diverse learning styles.
When people ask why I create for children, I have to take a deep breath, then ask:
How can we NOT do it? How do we NOT focus on inspiring our kids to think big, to be kind, to be loving, to be caring, and to be daring? They want to make a difference and help bring peace to the world.
How can we NOT share our time, our undivided attention, our respect for their incredible potential? They will be the caretakers of our planet. The future is in their hands. How we can we NOT make sure they know the meaning of justice, equality, gratitude, and service?
The Universal House of Justice says, “Children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, for in them are the promise and guarantee of the future.” What more do we need to inspire our focus on children?
Baha’i Blog: What are some of the challenges you’ve all faced and what’s the process been like?
Our biggest challenge has been finding a way — within our budget and resources — to take the vision, skill sets, and body of work that we’ve successfully developed for the magazine over the years, and translate these components into a sustainable, effective strategy online.
You may already know that producing a website is a moving target. By the time you’re ready to execute a strategy or framework you’ve been developing for some time, the fast winds of change in technology, best practices, user habits, and priorities can swiftly cause you to change course. Add this to producing a bi-monthly magazine in print and you have a highly challenging, but exciting, organic process of learning and discovery.
Baha’i Blog: What message do you have to all the parents and kids out there?
The Baha’i Writings say that the education of children is among the greatest ways to serve humanity. Our team is thankful to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the U.S. for allowing us to be of service through Brilliant Star. We have a wonderful team, but our work wouldn’t shine without the collaboration and support of our contributors of all ages from around the world. We love to get submissions, ideas, emails, and comments from kids, parents, teachers, and contributors. If you have pictures of your service project, or a story you’ve written, please share them with us. Take a look at our magazine and website for ways to get involved and share your voice. Also, watch for exciting new elements we’re rolling out in a few months at Brilliant Star Online. With love from all of us at Brilliant Star, we thank you for being awesome!
Baha’i Blog: Thanks so much Amethel for taking the time to answer my questions and a very special “thank you!” to the Brilliant Star team for working on such a wonderful magazine and website!
You can subscribe to Brilliant Star magazine via the following links:
And check out Brilliant Star Online here.
- Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message, 2000 [↩]