With recent unsettling events occurring in the United States, various themes about how the Black American minority is seen were brought to light once again. With various online platforms going as far as deleting some movies from their content that allegedly were racist, it’s safe to say that racism remains an important issue in today’s society.
Fortunately or not, this type of behavior is not inherited but taught, which means it is once again time to educate the younger generation and lead it toward a freer, more inclusive path. Although Black History month represents a good way of learning and understanding Black culture more, it is not enough to compress all those centuries of slavery, hunger, and harsh times.
We need to educate our children from an early age about the diversity of the human race and emphasize that skin color is not something we should feel ashamed of.
Children are extremely curious about faces and can easily identify the differences between people, and it is important to address these issues as early as possible to teach them about inclusion and making the world a safe environment for all humans to thrive, regardless of how similar or different they might appear to us.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the best books for children that talk about differences and continue to educate us and our children on the subject.
Two Eyes, A Nose and a Mouth by Roberta Grobel Intrater
As we previously mentioned, toddlers and little children are fascinated by faces. By the time they are six months old, most babies are able to recognize race and look longer at the faces that have similar features to the ones of their parents or caregivers.
This is the proper age to start celebrating diversity and create a positive, healthy environment where your children can discuss identity. This book is full of pictures that show the unique combination of genes of various people in this world, so you can have a starting point when talking about the shape and size of eyes, nose, lips, as well as different aspects of skin color.
Describe to your children what you see and, as the kids grow older and begin to understand more, continue using it as support for further diving into the subject and addressing any concerns, misunderstandings, or questions. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Grandpa, Is Everything Black Bad? by Sandy Lynne Holman, illustrated by Lela Kometiani
Our culture easily identifies the word “white” with positive and good aspects, whereas black is immediately considered impure, ugly, bad, or at least threatening. This book discusses the various meanings of these colors while emphasizing that deciding between what’s good or bad is more than simply addressing two opposite colors.
It is important to understand that, according to studies, children tend to generalize these linguistic connotations to people, and this is why they might end up considering a black person as being bad.
This picture book provides necessary examples of the types of conversations adults must have with children from an early age to understand the importance of words and how they can affect or even hurt the surrounding people. Children must be taught to embrace all racial identities and positively portray the black culture, as opposed to a dark piece of history nobody wants to remember. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
We’re Different, We’re the Same by Bobbi Kates, illustrated by Joe Mathieu
Perhaps the most eloquent title to address the matter, this book explains in a few words and many pictures the beauty of diversity and why every person is unique. It addresses various themes, including the color of one’s skin, while also stating that, despite our differences, all humans are the same, and it is our actions that define us and not the way we look.
The book is an engaging read for toddlers and adults alike and can help you easily formulate answers to any questions your little children might have when it comes to embracing diversity. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
I Am Enough by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
The winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards picture book and a New York Times bestseller, this book represents an excellent read for mothers and daughters in various stages of their lives and relationship, from baby showers to graduations.
It is an ode to loving and accepting who you are, respecting others, and being kind to others, no matter how different or similar they might be to you. It is also a great read that addresses various questions little black girls might have about their appearance, which makes it even more educational. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Other ways to address racial differences:
Although a great part of a child’s education is done through books, there is nothing better than illustrating the concepts taught in those books in the real world.
As citizens of a diverse country, the first step toward better inclusion and acceptance is bringing people from different backgrounds in a common, safe environment.
Start by taking your children to places where they can socialize with as many kids as possible, such as parks, indoor and outdoor playgrounds, daycares, block parties, and other events. With the support of the local community (including community centers and various civic actions around your neighborhood), consider organizing small-scale events that celebrate diversity.
Races with scooters you can find on Thescooterist.com, painting or drawing contests, bake sales, and other small actions represent great opportunities for people of all ages to come together and children to learn more about inclusion.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.