by Katrina Morse by Family Reading Partnership
Children are constantly sorting their world into categories of “same” and “different.” This is how they learn language and how to read. They learn different shapes, colors, and numbers. Seeing what is the same and different also helps children develop their personal identity.
Young children are looking at how they are the same and different from others by observing, not judging. Children will notice the variety of skin colors and put them into categories of being the same or different compared to themselves. Where judgment comes in is by listening and watching the people they know, the media, and our society. Young children learn from others to label the differences they observe as good or bad and so begin having biases.
You can start when your child is a pre-schooler to talk about race and racism in a way that they understand. Children recognize when something is not fair. You can explain racist events in simple terms that point out the unfairness that happened. Should people be treated differently just because of their skin color? Have conversations about the differences and similarities in people, be a good listener, and encourage your child’s curiosity.
There are many good resources available for parents and educators that give ideas and booklists supporting anti-racism work with children. Here are some you may find helpful:
Other books you may already read with your children can be effective teaching tools even if not specifically about race and discrimination. Stories that have themes of fairness and justice can be compared to similar events in your child’s own life. When you talk about the books you read together, you’ll learn more about what your child thinks and can add your own ideas.