by STEFANIE PAIGE GROSSMAN, M.S.ED.
The need for diverse and inclusive books for children has become clear. When children see themselves reflected in books, it increases their feelings of positive self-worth. Conversely, when children rarely or never see themselves reflected in books, they receive the message that they are outside of what is acknowledged and accepted as “normal.”
Furthermore, research shows that without thoughtful adult intervention, children develop stereotypes. As early childhood anti-bias education expert and human development faculty member at Pacific Oaks College, Louise Derman-Sparks, explains:
“By the age of two, children begin absorbing socially prevailing stereotypes, attitudes and biases about themselves and people different from themselves. They begin to show discomfort or fear or even dislike toward a person with a different skin color, different language or with a physical disability.”
Books that depict people from all walks of life help combat this. But they can’t do the work alone.
Why the need for adult conversation around these books?
Children often need adult guidance in order to make the connection between what they read in books and their own knowledge and experiences. Connecting new information to what they already know enables children to make meaning of the new information and integrate it into their lives. Savvy teachers often introduce a topic by asking children what they already know. This activates children’s prior knowledge, which gives them a context for integrating new information. It also allows the teacher to assess where there may be gaps in understanding.
Adults also play a key role in answering questions about a book: providing explanations and factual information, or modeling for kids how to do research to get additional information.
Talking explicitly about issues like culture, race, religion, sexual orientation and abilities can be awkward for adults. But for children, it’s not awkward. It’s essential. They are already thinking about these topics and making sense of them in their own way, whether adults talk with them about it or not.
When having conversations with children, adults should find the balance between drawing out what kids know and providing factual information. If a child does express a stereotype or incorrect notion about others, it is important for the adult to gently correct their thinking.
Diverse and inclusive books are a critical and welcome part of children’s lives. As adults, it’s our role to make sure children receive and understand the messages of these books with open hearts and clear minds.
What do the children in your life see in the books they read?
Here are some examples of questions adults can ask before, during and after reading diverse and inclusive books. Begin with questions that prompt children to think about their own identities:
- What language/languages do you understand? What languages have you heard? Is there a language you’d like to learn?
- What color is your skin? Your hair? Your eyes?
- What are some things you are good at?
- What special holidays does your family celebrate?
- What kinds of foods do you like to eat?
- Who are the people in your family?
- What do you like to do for fun?
- What is something that people might not know about you that you would like them to know about you?
Next, ask about others:
- What do you notice about how this character looks? How this character acts?
- How are you similar to this character? How are you different?
- How do you think this character is feeling? Have you ever felt that way?
- Why do you think the character did this? Would you have done the same thing?
- This character lives in a different country/is from a different culture. What would you like to learn about that country/culture?
Looking to add a book about diversity and inclusion to your home or
school library? The Barefoot Book of Children is a ground breaking book to teach kids about diversity, empathy and inclusion. Use it as a starting point to have these important timely discussions with your child today. For every copy sold in the month of October, $5 will be donated to the Kamloops Early Literacy and Language Initiative (KELLI) which is responsible for running free programs like Mother Goose and Family Literacy Nights.
Buy your copy today: http://bit.ly/2d5gVP6
Article provided by Barefoot Books with Kendel. Written by STEFANIE PAIGE GROSSMAN, M.S.ED.