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Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.

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February 24, 2021

Children’s Books About Race and Prejudice

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

August 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "I Have a Dream" speech.

In the above Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, he challenges us to judge others by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Prejudices and discriminatory behaviors exhibited in children are learned beliefs and attitudes form society. Some of the societal influences can present themselves in the form of the children’s parents or guardians, teachers and coaches, the media, friends and any other sources of socialization.  Children often emulate and model the behavior they see around them. According to Welcoming Schools, stereotyping and prejudice starts between the ages of 3-5.i Can you believe babies start to notice race as early as 3-6 months?ii

There is value in educating young children and shedding light on how prejudices and discriminatory behaviors can lead to positive impacts on valuing diversity, celebrating differences and acknowledging how seemingly harmless behaviors can be mistaken for weapons. Below you will find a short, but detailed list of five children’s books based on race relations and prejudice. Using books can be instrumental when inspiring and encouraging conversations with children about race and racial issues that are plaguing our society.

Picture1

Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison

Each page of this book highlights bold accomplishments of African American women. During this read, you will see familiar faces like business mogul Oprah Winfrey and astronaut Mae Jemison. Featuring 18 trailblazing black women in American history, Dream Big, Little One is the irresistible board book adaptation of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. This book is a great way to show beautiful faces of women heroes while encouraging your little ones to think big! Recommended for ages 0-3.

Picture2

What I Like About Me by Allia Zobel Nolan

The kids in What I Like About Me, are very different and they could not be happier. From glasses, to braces, to the inclusion of a mirror on the back cover, it is our differences that make us special. Focusing on appearance, nationality, food, and more, this book helps children to learn about diversity and building self-esteem. There is also a Teacher Classroom Pack available to guide you while diving in deep with your students. Recommended for ages 5-9.

Picture3

A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory

In light of recent events and racial uprisings, parents are finding themselves speaking with kids about race at a much younger age. A Kids Book About Racism is indeed a book about racism that clearly defines what constitutes racism, how it makes people feel, and how to identify racism when it happens. This book not only explains racism in a way children can understand, but it is helpful in cultivating anti-racist minds. Recommended for ages 5-9.

Picture4

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

There are many, many reason to feel different. Maybe it is your cultural background, how you walk, how you wear your hair, or what you eat. Sometimes we feel like outsiders when we enter a room where nobody knows you or looks like you do. Being different can feel lonely at times, but you find the courage to go forward anyway. This book helps set the tone for conversations with little ones around physical differences and how to push through feelings of insecurities.  Recommended for ages 5-8.

Picture5

Town: A Child’s Story of Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano PhD

This book follows two families- one White, one Black as they navigate through racial injustices in their town at the hands of law enforcement. A book with a very familiar storyline, explores the events of the police shooting a Black man in their community. This book helps to create a safe place for children and to answer questions children might have about racial injustice. Recommended for children ages 4-8.

 

i Winkler, Erin N. (2009). Children Are Not Colorblind: How Young Children Learn Race. High Reach Learning. PACE 3(3) https://www4.uwm.edu/letsci/africology/faculty/upload/children_colorblind.pdf.

ii Bar-Haim, Yair., Talee Ziv, Dominique Lamy, and Richard Hodes (2006). Nature and nurture in own-race face processing. Psychological Science 17, 159–163.

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