Children’s stories stick with us through life and help us make sense of the world. So, who do you talk about at bedtime?
Awhile back a friend introduced a question for us to consider as parents: Did we read our child any books about people of color? We had books about trains and ducks and mice. Unicorns, dragons, trucks and kings. And… a whole lot of white people. Irk.
My friend’s question wasn’t even specifically about events or racial histories. Just — did we have books about people of color?
Huh. Our son was two years old at the time.
Really, we just hadn’t thought about it, and by default we had sought out books with characters that look like our own kid and the kind of person he might grow into, gender and all. Not to mention, there’s a distinct shortage in the marketplace. (More about that disparity in this article: The Apartheid of Children’s Literature)
Today, on MLK Day, I’d like to issue a challenge. Not because I have this stuff figured out. I certainly do not. I am white. Most of my friends are white. Will reading a couple books solve the world’s problems?
But it’s one very doable, very small step that can send the message that people who look different are worth talking to and about. Their stories are worth telling. Their stories are worth hearing.
Maybe your child will have questions and create an opportunity window to impart how your family’s values relate to the realities of the world we actually live in. Our kids are little sponges and soak up so many things from us. They are constantly observing what we do and say, and what we often forget is that they are also observing what we don’t do, what we don’t say. Even if that omission is unintentional.
Even if that omission is as subtle as the books on our shelf.
I was glad that someone pointed out this small thing as I strive to prepare my child to navigate our world: to befriend and interact with people in our community.
So, take a moment and be intentional. If you haven’t already, next time you’re at the library, pick up a book featuring a child who looks different than yours.
We now have several books that are part of our son’s go-to bedtime reads that have also become some of his all-time favorite books. He asks for them again and again. Here are two of those:
- The Snowy Day
by Ezra Jack Keats – A classic, easy to read story that follows a little boy playing in the snow. The artwork is absolutely stunning.
- I Like Myself
by Karen Beaumont – An upbeat, silly and imaginative story that reinforces the strength of self-esteem. The illustration and rhyming verse are reminiscent of Dr. Seuss.
Here are a few that are explicitly about diversity:
And here’s what other sources have to recommend on the topic:
The comment section is open if you have other suggestions.
By Jessamyn Rubio
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