Of course, children see color!
They GROW to let it create differences and self-esteem issues, only by the conversations we NEGLECT to have and the subtle prejudices they see portrayed around them.
The conversation with our children about race and privilege must be one that is on going. Today, I want to take a moment to talk about how we can use books to help start this essential conversation.
The conversation can start as early as 4 but there is no end date to this. I have spoken in depth about the need of parents, brown and others to speak up and teach kids about race. The following ways are most effective.
* Read historical events and understand them with your child.
* Talk openly about life choices, worth of each person, the privilege you have.
* Acknowledge all people around you.
* Amplify voices of those that are talking about these things. Share this.
* Celebrate different cultures.
* Read books about skin color, different cultures, religions, own voices, brown parents, raising multicultural children. MAKE the EFFORT to DIVERSIFY your library.
* Speak UP! Do the right thing when needed.
After I wrote the above article, I had few parents respond asking for a list of books and conversation starters. Here are the books (Ages 4-10) , first.
How Our Skin Sparkles – Aditi W. Singh
Aarav asks his mom why do I look different from the kids in my class. His mom helps him build confidence through science and culture. This body positivity and diversity book has been #1 in books against racism and prejudice. Told from a brown child’s POV, it is a great conversation starter about equality and empowerment. For self and others around you. I have included a number of conversation starters for parents in the book itself, specific to the topic at hand.
Something Happened in Our Town – Marianne Celano
Something Happened in Our Town follows two families — one White, one Black — as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children’s questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives. Includes an extensive Note to Parents and Caregivers with guidelines for discussing race and racism with children, child-friendly definitions, and sample dialogues.
Where Am I From – Elisavet Arkolaki
Children from seven countries each have a turn to answer in their own way. Each answer is correct, and yet still not the whole picture. When the youngest takes his turn, he shares a different view, one that has nothing to do with borders on a map. Children love to see the diversity of the world that is beautifully portrayed using real-life street art that is unique to this book.
Gabe Faces Ignorance – L.I.Forsette
When Gabe unintentionally hurts his friend Sofia, he has no idea what he did wrong. It turns out he doesn’t know everything about her, and that his actions have unforeseen consequences. Sofia cleverly directs a conversation they have with her dad to lead Gabe toward a new understanding of their relationship and of his role in promoting bias.
Chrissy Doesn’t Like Her Hair – Christine Williams
Chrissy doesn’t like her tightly coiled hair. She always compares her hair to her mother, sister, teacher, and classmates. Chrissy feels frustrated and becomes upset. It is not until she meets Ms. Wiggins, who shifts Chrissy’s mindset about her hair, and reminds her that she is beautiful and unique, just the way she was created!
I’m a Pretty Black Girl – Betty K. Bynum
Mia tells of friends of all shades of brown and different hair textures who she celebrates as other pretty little black girls who share “love” and “good manners” with each other — and who are fun and polite, and are destined for a future filled with accomplishments of “brilliance”!!!
Whoever You Are – Mem Fox
Every day all over the world, children are laughing and crying, playing and learning, eating and sleeping. They may not look the same. They may not speak the same language. Their lives may be quite different. But inside, they are all alike. Stirring words and bold paintings weave their way around our earth, across cultures and generations. At a time when, unfortunately, the lessons of tolerance still need to be learned, Whoever You Are urges us to accept our differences, to recognize our similarities, and-most importantly-to rejoice in both.
I Promise – Lebron James
Just a kid from Akron, Ohio, who is dedicated to uplifting youth everywhere, LeBron James knows the key to a better future is to excel in school, do your best, and keep your family close. I Promise is a lively and inspiring picture book that reminds us that tomorrow’s success starts with the promises we make to ourselves and our community today.
I Belong – Laurie Wright
After reading this book your young child will realize that people are more alike than different and that everyone belongs, no matter where they are or what differences they might have. Read it to them now, when they are mini, so they will grow up knowing this mantra to be true: THEY BELONG!
Big Umbrella – Amy June Bates
By the door there is an umbrella. It is big. It is so big that when it starts to rain there is room for everyone underneath. It doesn’t matter if you are tall. Or plaid. Or hairy. It doesn’t matter how many legs you have.
Don’t worry that there won’t be enough room under the umbrella. Because there will always be room.
Meet Yasmin – Saadia Faruqi
Meet Yasmin! Yasmin is a spirited second-grader who’s always on the lookout for those “aha” moments to help her solve life’s little problems. Taking inspiration from her surroundings and her big imagination, she boldly faces any situation, assuming her imagination doesn’t get too big, of course! A creative thinker and curious explorer, Yasmin and her multi-generational Pakistani American family will delight and inspire readers.
Where Do I Belong – Niyati Desai
Neha’s character is a part of many American households. It is the story of a perceptive and sensitive young child caught between two or more cultures, and of parents trying to help her craft an identity that is whole and complete. This book touches on issues not typically addressed in picture books, and fills an important void in children’s literature for this group of children who are particularly vulnerable to feeling marginalized and different.
Conversations You Can Derive From Above Books
- What do you think was unique about the child telling the story?
- Did you learn anything new from the book?
- Would you agree with what this book is trying to say?
- Did you see anything interesting about this culture?
- How can you relate better to kids from you … (Class/group etc) after this?
- Do you know how our culture is different that most?
- Have you ever thought about how we are luckier than most in our lives?
- What is skin color?
- Have you ever thought about how our skin color affects us?
- Should everyone be treated equal? How do we do that?
- Do you understand that things people say and how we behave affects others?
- In what ways can we help those around us feel better about themselves?
- Let’s talk about the history of racism (older kids)
- Have you heard about … (Holocaust, Slavery, Pre Independence India)
- In your class has anyone ever passed any hurtful comments?
- Did you hear about the news from friends?
- Do you know what is happening in the … (current event)
- How do you think this affects us?
- Subtle prejudices your own family and friends have expressed.
- How to respond to racist comments.
IMO, when a situation happens in the news that you can introduce to your child in simple words (age 8 and above), its a great opportunity to drive home the conversation of race, privilege and how many different ways we can help our fellow beings.