Not everybody agrees with exposing our young children to difficult subjects unnecessarily, and I’m going to address that here, and explain why it’s the wrong approach – and actually an example of white privilege. We need to be having these conversations early on, and using racism books, or rather anti racism books, to explore the issue with children is a great tool to open up that discussion.
I’m going to start this post by very quickly giving you a little lesson in search engine optimisation. Since I started treating my blog as a business, every time I write a post I do keyword research, which basically means the post is more likely to get found on Google.
I spent ages researching keywords for this post, and found it quite tricky. This essentially means the diverse terms I’d hope/expect people to be searching for with regards to kids books, they just aren’t – or at least they haven’t been historically. Which is sad in itself, don’t you think?
Going back for a moment to the point I made above about actively taking the decision to remove a little piece of our children’s innocence by talking to them about racism, have a little read of this Instagram post:
View this post on Instagram
2020: the year that keeps on shocking. 💔 . I was very conflicted yesterday about whether to join in with the #blackouttuesday campaign. Not because I don’t support the sentiment, but because I do. . It’s a vital conversation, but I’m wary of getting it wrong. I didn’t want to appear to ‘jump on the bandwagon’, all appearances and no substance. Which is why, in the end, I joined in but I wrote no caption. . My feelings and my voice didn’t matter yesterday. They don’t much matter today, unless I’m actively trying to help. . I’m still learning. I may make mistakes. But I want to do better. And this week I’ve learned that just because exposing my daughter to a wicked truth about our world makes me uncomfortable, that’s not a legitimate reason to fail her and her black peers by neglecting to educate her. . I’ve just bought a book to help us start the conversation (it’s going to take a while to arrive because it’s out of stock, which is excellent news). And I’m going to make it the next book I review in my series for supporting difficult conversations with children. . Because it *is* difficult. . Nobody wants to teach their children about how cruel some people can be. But I recognise that it’s our white privilege which means it’s a choice to do it our own way and in our own time – and that we’ll be teaching a very different lesson than telling her she may face prejudice due to the colour of her skin. . So, when the book arrives, our 5yo will learn about racism, what it means, and how to be anti-racist.
So that’s why I’m writing this post and also why I’m convinced it’s the decent, responsible, correct thing to do. It’s a human approach to a human problem.
Plus the fact that this is not just an issue which may touch my children at some point in their future lives – my daughter has BAME children in her class right now.
She needs to know about this stuff today, because she may be exposed to racism in the playground at any time, and I want her to know how to respond positively, appropriately, in a way that her dad and I will be proud of – and which will make her an ally to her friends.
The sooner this begins, the more likely it will become second nature, and that’s absolutely a value we wish to instil.
Okay, time to be positive now. What took place in May 2020 and the weeks following has been instrumental in what looks to be a big shift in attitudes – for the better. I still have a lot to learn and won’t pretend otherwise, but I and my peers in our industry are educating ourselves and doing our best to do better personally, and share what we learn.
One of things I’ve been educated about is our colour-blindness. This is something probably affects a large swathe of my generation: our parents well-intentioned yet ill-judged reaction to the racism in the world.
I liken it to The Emperor’s New Clothes – for all the right reasons, we’ve been taught to pretend we don’t see something that is plainly clear to observe.
If we take our children to a meadow and ask them what they can see, they’ll point out the vivid colours and the rich variety – yet we do them a disservice at best, or injustice at worst, by teaching them it’s not okay to be candid about skin colour.
What message does that send?
I’ve learned that we should be guiding our children to acknowledge and celebrate diversity.
With that in mind, I created some new t-shirt designs, which you can see here:
As for taking away our children’s innocence, with the global pandemic I’m beginning to appreciate just how resilient our incredible little people are. My five year old little girl is blowing me away with her capacity to take everything in her stride.
It reinforces for me that they absolutely take their cues from us. They’re so impressionable at this young age – and that’s no bad thing if we manage our responsibility sensitively and appropriately. It’s within our control to begin to make positive changes for the next generation to carry forward – and that begins with early discussions to remove taboos around all subjects.
I’m very passionate utilising using books to support difficult conversations with children (hence this series). So I’ve been looking into racism books for kids, that I feel are gentle enough to share with younger children.
Tackling Racism: Books to Help Educate Kids
Today I want to share a review of one of the anti racism books we were recommended and ordered a couple of weeks ago.
There’s a clear difference between stocking home libraries with diverse books (which we’ve already started and will continue to do), and reading a book that covers the topic of racism. The book I’m reviewing today deliberately falls into the latter category.
Anti Racism Books – Review of Little People, Big Dreams: Martin Luther King
This book is, unsurprisingly, about Martin Luther King. I’m ashamed to admit I knew little about him myself because – as recently discussed in the media – schools just don’t cover black history as well as they ought to. Or at least they didn’t 20 years ago. (Excuse me while I just pick myself up off the floor having realised how old I am.)
I’m not going to excuse the fact that I’ve not done my own research. There are plenty of reasons, but none of them excuse my ignorance.
This book is a great introduction to an incredible man, who faced prejudice yet went on to achieve great things without resorting to violence.
In that sense it’s actually perfect to share with children because while it launches into the harsh reality of segregation, it’s tempered by the wonderful lesson that only love can drive out hate. And I’m sure we’d all agree that in itself, that’s a powerful value to instil in our children.
The book gives an overview of the activist’s life, the hardships he endured, and the peaceful approach he took to achieving justice and effecting change. (It does not mention the fact that he was assassinated, so that is something which can be avoided if you deem it inappropriate to share with younger children.)
The illustrated pages end with the positive message of Martin Luther King’s dream:
A world where we are judged not by the colour of our skin, but by our character.
The penultimate pages show a small timeline and some photos of the man himself, and the book ends with suggestions of further reading pertaining to Martin Luther King, as well as more books in the series, about other historic figures.
If you’re looking for a gentle introduction to racism (if such a thing exists), then this book provides facts about significant events in history, without being overly emotive. It’s ideal for younger children, to plant the seed without overwhelming them.
The overarching feel of the book, while educational, is mostly inspirational. My five year old responded well, and my (just) three year old doesn’t yet understand the subtext, but enjoys me reading the book with her nonetheless!
My intentions with this post are to help those parents who wish to start a discussion with their children around race and/or racism, but are unsure where to start. I hope I’ve got this right and not made errors with the language I’ve used, or in any other regard; however please do reach out and correct me if I have. I’ll gladly update the post accordingly.