When reading to children we all want to share a happy, loving and warmhearted stories that make them feel happy. Often times, we wish to share a little piece of our childhood with them and we are enticed in the joyful moment ourselves. These simple children’s books deserve a second look before sharing them with your child.
Sometimes adults are silent on topics of race, prejudice and racial inequality but being silent about race does not keep children from noticing race, and neither does it keep them from developing racial bias and prejudices.
Children’s Books and Racism
Books play an important role in fighting against racial bias. Children need to see their experiences represented in the books they read and they need to read about the experiences of people who are different from them.
Television and video games are full of stereotypes, and in a period of time children gain new perspectives from these. It can be difficult to start up these conversations but books and videos can be a great starting point.
We have books like Shades of People by Sheila M. Kelly and Shelley Rotner, Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi, This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on how to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell’ Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry and I’m New Here by Anne Sibley which are great tools to have when trying to initiate a conversation.
Using Picture Books to Talk About Race
Anne Sibley O’Brien is a children’s book creator who has illustrated 37 books. She is the author of most of those books. She is also a co-founder of the databases I’m Your Neighbor Books and Diverse Book Finder and has published essays on diverse books.
O’Brien and Dr. Andrea Breau will look at what the research is saying about children’s conceptions and attitudes about race and how picture books can help children develop healthy racial identities.
Is it too early to talk to children about race? According to Healthychildren.org, ‘As early as 6 months, a baby’s brain can notice race-based differences. By age 2 to 4, children can internalize racial bias. By age 12, many children become set in their beliefs, giving parents a decade to mold the learning process, so that it decreases racial bias and improves cultural understanding.’ Is it too early to talk to children about race? Absolutely not!
It is important to take the time to talk about race in their tender age.
Let’s take a look at a research carried out by a child development professor named Brigitte Vittrue; she conducted a study that explains how silence can breed prejudice: ‘Almost half of the 5 to 7 – year – old white children in the study said they did not know whether their parents liked black people, and about 35 percent either said that their parents would not approve of them having a black friend or they did not know if their parents would approve. This was despite the fact that their parents reported positive racial attitudes.’
Your actions and words are vital if you want your children to respond to others who may be different than them.