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Different is Beautiful
Different is Beautiful
5th August 2020 - by Michaela Parisi
Resources to teach children about diversity and inclusion at home

Last week one of my fellow teachers posted this question on FaceBook, “When did you have your first non-White teacher?” I thought back to my 18 years of education and realized that the only non-White educator I had for class was my French professor in college who was from Senegal. He and my basketball and track coaches were the only Black educators I ever had. And from the comments on her post, I was not alone in my experience. According to a study conducted by the US Department of Education in 2016, 82% of educators are White. 

This raises the following question--where are children learning about race and diversity if they are not witnessing it at school? Are children learning about this at home? If children do not see diversity in their schools and don’t talk about it at home, they will not understand the beauty of a diverse society. They will grow up not knowing how to interact with others who are different from themselves. 

This is why I have written today’s blog. Below, I have compiled a list of some resources for you to use with your children to open the door to talk about diversity and inclusion at home. The resources below are not only about diversity in race, but also include books and movies about differing abilities, genders, and nationalities. 

mother reading book to daughter

Books to Read

A great way to introduce the subject of race and diversity is through reading. If you live in an area with a population that is homogeneous, your child may not know that there are people who aren’t the same as them. Reading books with characters who are different can help a child understand that not all people are the same, and that that’s not a bad thing, in fact, it’s a good thing! 

Sit down with your child and read one of the following books together. Don’t hesitate to pause every couple of pages to ask your child furthering questions. 

Ages 3 and up:

  • The Name Jar: This picture book shows Unhei, a Korean immigrant to the US, dealing with adapting to a new school and a new language. 
  • Noah Chases the Wind: This little book showcases the life of Noah, a boy on the autism spectrum, and the things he sees that no one else seems to understand. 
  • The Sandwich Swap: This short book is about two friends with different backgrounds and how their lunches lead to a better understanding of each other.  
  • Same, Same but Different: This short book is about pen pals Elliot and Kailash. Elliot lives in the US and Kailash lives in India. While they live across the globe from one another, they have many things in common. 

Ages 4 and up:

  • All Are Welcome: This picture book follows a diverse group of students throughout their school day. 
  • Lovely: This picture book shows people of different sizes, ages and races and describes each one as lovely.
  • Dreamers: This short book follows Mexican immigrant, Yuyi Morales, as she leaves everything to travel to the US. 
  • Julián is a Mermaid: This picture book shows Julián falling in love with the fashion of mermaids and his journey to self expression. 

Ages 5 and up:

  • Mango, Abuela, and Me: This adorable story is about Mia’s Spanish-speaking grandmother coming to live with her in the United States. 
  • If Kids Ran the World: This short book talks about all the things kids would do if they were in charge. It examines the needs of the world and how to create peace among different types of people. 
  • I’m New Here: This touching story is about three students from different countries who find their voice with the help of teachers and new friends at school.

Ages 6 and up:

  • Let the Children March: This short book examines the Civil Rights Movement from the point of view of a child. When parents worked and couldn’t march for fear of being fired, these children fought for their rights. Let the Children March is appropriate for children ages 6 and up.

Ages 8 and up:

  • One Crazy Summer: This is a story about three African-American sisters who travel to California from New York to spend the summer with their mother, who abandoned them seven years prior. 
  • Esperanza Rising: This touching tale is about a young girl who is forced to leave her privileged life in Mexico due to an unexpected tragedy. Esperanza and her family settle in a farm labor camp in California in the midst of the Great Depression. 
  • You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P.!: This book is about Jilly and her baby sister, Emma, who was born deaf. 

Movies & Shows to Watch 

Another great way to introduce topics of race and diversity is with a family movie night. Here are some movies to watch with your children:

*TV series

father talking to daughter on stool

Opening the Conversation 

The most important thing you can do as a parent to help your child learn about race and diversity is to have open conversations with them. It is imperative that your child talk in a safe space about difficult topics such as this. If your child does not feel they can talk to you about sensitive subjects in a safe space, they will feel uncomfortable ever talking about them. 

Once you have read any of the books or watched the movies listed above, try talking to your child about different hypothetical scenarios. For example, if you read the book I’m New Here, with your child, ask them, “If a new student from a different country joined your class, what could you do to make them feel welcome?” Discuss ways that your child can be an ally to people who may not be the same race, religion, or nationality as themselves.  

It may also be useful to ask your child if they have been in any situations like those in the books in real life. Here are some potential questions to pose to your child:

  • Have you ever seen someone who was dressed differently from you? Why do you think that person dresses like that? Why do you dress the way you do?
  • Do you know anyone who maybe has different abilities from you? What do they struggle with and what are they really good at? What do you struggle with and what are you really good at? 
  • Has there ever been a time when you were the only person in the room with your skin color? How did it feel? How do you think someone in that situation would feel? What can you do in those situations to make someone feel more comfortable?
  • Have you ever met someone who didn’t speak the same language as you? What did you do? What can you do in a situation like that to communicate and make the other person feel comfortable? 

Don’t be afraid to ask your child questions like these.. By making your child aware of various situations, you are teaching them to think from someone else’s perspective. Then when they do encounter scenarios with diversity, they will be able to analyze the situation and respond appropriately. If we never have these tough conversations, we will never learn and grow. 

I hope the resources given above were helpful. If you have questions about anything presented above, or you would like to suggest a topic for my next blog, feel free to email me at michaela@loonylearn.com.

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