Friday, June 5, 2020

Reading to Eradicate Racism

Yesterday my daughter asked me about books that I could recommend for my nearly four-year-old granddaughter that would be helpful for addressing racism. My response was that, for a very young child, the first thing to keep in mind is to offer books that normalize diversity.

Previous generations, including mine, had books that primarily featured White people— families, children, and friends. So that became the norm. Other people were just that ... other.

Thankfully, publishers, authors, educators have woken up to the need to populate children’s books with a range of characters. One significant effect is to help children who are members of minority groups to identify with the characters on the pages. Another effect is to “normalize” the presence of a range of people. When young children see the pages of their books populated with all kinds of people—Black, White, Brown, in a wheelchair, and so on—they internalize the notion that there is not one “type” of person that is the norm.

The following are some books that I am very familiar with because I have incorporated them into literacy programs that I have developed for Scholastic Inc.  These books are populated with diverse human characters.

All Kinds of Friends by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers
A Good Night Walk by Elisha Cooper
Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin
I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith
Lola Reads to Leo by Anna McQuinn
Ming Goes to School by Deirdre Sullivan
One Family by George Shannon
One Love by Cedelia Marley
One World, One Day, by Barbara Kerley
The Paper Crane by Molly Bang
Soup Day by Melissa Iwai
You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith

What I think . . .

There are all kinds of readers. Some—like my daughter and me—are never without a book to read for pleasure. Others—like my son—are careful, analytical, and curious readers who read primarily to seek information from the page.

No matter what kind of reader your child becomes, you can help him or her get started. After all, you are your child’s first teacher. And, best of all, you can have some fun in the process.

Please feel free to share your own ideas. Tell me about ways you've enjoyed reading with your child.

Madeline Boskey, Ph.D.