We spend time with young children every day that are filled to the brim with love and curiosity. But a time will come when they’ll naturally ask questions about difficult topics – racism, inequality, and inclusion among the toughest. These conversations are inevitable, but when handled correctly can have a remarkable impact on kids.
Whether race is an active conversation in your family or you’re unsure about where to start, we are here to support you. Below, we’ll provide you with guidance and resources to help you put together a strategy for talking to children about race.
Why Parents Should Teach Their Kids About Race, Inequality, and Inclusion
For some parents this is a scene you’re all too familiar with: you’re in the grocery store with your toddler when they point to a person of a different race or ethnicity and say (rather loudly), “That man is a funny color” or “why does that woman’s dress cover her face?” Maybe you’ve had someone point at you and say these things. How do you react? What do you say?
It’s a natural instinct for parents to protect children from some realities of everyday life – we want to keep them innocent and carefree. But beginning a dialogue about race isn’t something that should wait. Parents should take part in conversations about racial discrimination with their kids from a young age. Whatever your cultural background – provide space to have honest and messy conversations about race and diversity.
The crisis emerging from racism and injustice in our country is unfolding in real-time, and each family’s experience is unique. At Vivvi, we believe now is a time when we all need to stand up and turn our sadness and feelings of helplessness into actions.
Kids and Race: Use These Recommended Tips When Talking to Them
Dancing around difficult subjects is a default setting for many parents. So, how do you start a family conversation about race, inequality, and inclusion? Here are intentional, impactful, and developmentally appropriate tips for parents to use when teaching children about race.
- Educate yourself first – Educate yourself about racial discrimination and unpack your own biases first so that you can better serve your children. Remember, children absorb mannerisms and will mimic your lead. Separating your adult experience from that of your child’s will help you to raise them to be more inclusive.
- Start early – Studies suggest that babies can notice racial differences at 9 months old; at 4 years old your child can show signs of racial bias. By starting early, you can teach your child to react to people of different races and ethnicities with kindness.
- Model kindness – Children watch the smallest of gestures. You are a role model to your child – what you say is important, but what you do has a bigger impact. Seek out age-appropriate events in your local area that are diverse where you and your child can interact and learn from people of different races.
- Avoid color blindness – Instead of teaching your child to look beyond the color of a person’s skin, teach them how to celebrate differences. Help your child to understand that every racial or ethnic group has their own traditions, culture, language, and way of dressing. Speaking openly about how cool these differences will speak volumes to your child.
- Reinforce larger themes gradually – When you feel ready, continue reinforcing larger racial and inequality themes gradually, yet purposefully, over time. You can do this by adding books that have diverse characters to your library, learning about a new culture, and having frequent open talks with your child.
Kids Books About Race That All Parents Should Know
Books are a vital part of Vivvi’s Learning Model and curriculum. When teaching tolerance and diversity to children, kids’ books about race can be a wonderful starting point for beginning a conversation. Here at Vivvi, we use “picture walks” as a way to introduce your child to a new book and when bringing up more challenging topics.
If this sounds different from how you would normally read with your child, practice a picture walk with a book your family reads regularly, or pick a book your child is already fond of.
Below, are some of our favorite books to turn to when discussing race, inequality, and diversity with kids. As you explore the list of books below, here are a few starter questions you may want to ask your child, either during your picture walk or throughout the reading:
- What do you notice in this picture? What do you think this might be about?
- I can see that [action/emotion is happening], what do you think?
- Look at that picture, to me the people in that picture look [emotion], what do you think?
- What do you think will happen next?
- I noticed in this book that some people feel like they’re not being treated with kindness, but you know how to be kind, like when you [example].
Remember to distinguish between real and pretend. Young children have rich creative minds–you can help calm them by reminding them of what is real and what is pretend, and reminding them that they are safe.
Books That Talk About Race and Diversity
Diversity and Inclusion
- Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy
- Just Like Me by Vanessa Newton
- Octopus Stew by Eric Velasquez
- The Old Truck by Jerome Pumphrey
- The Big Red Umbrella by Gussie Levine
- Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev
- It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr
- The Peace Book by Todd Parr
- Shades of People by Shelley Rotner
- All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
- We’re Different We’re the Same by Bobbi Kates
- All Kinds of Children by Norma Simon
- Somewhere in the World Right by Stacey Schuett
- I Like to Play by Marla Stewart Konrad
- If Kids Ran the World by Leo & Diane Dillon
- Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley
- Bread, Bread, Bread by Ann Morris
- Shoes, Shoes, Shoes by Ann Morris
- Hats, Hats, Hats by Ann Morris
Diversity & Inclusion: Why It’s a Core Part of the Vivvi Learning Model
Our entire team continues to strengthen our curriculum through the lens of kindness, empathy, and respect. Diversity and inclusion are topics we have always taken seriously at Vivvi, and will continue to do so.
We are committed to an anti-racist world where black lives matter, no one fears for their safety and no one is denied the rights every person deserves. That is why we ensure that difficult topics, like this one, are included as a core part of the Vivvi Learning Model.
Our expert teachers are here to help and will always promise you and your children our very best efforts. We offer a warm, welcoming environment where your children can learn about the world around them in a safe and respectful place.
Interested in hearing more? Contact the Vivvi team today.