You Belong Here, We all Do
The heading says it all, and at this time when racism continues to rear it's ugly head, we must remember those words. Many people feel like children are too young to discuss racism but not addressing what they experience and see is actually allowing racism to continue. Yes, this requires courageous or brave space conversations but doing so helps children of color understand their rights and can empower them to see themselves as strong and worthy. It can also help others recognize privelage and reflect on how they can embrace diversity and show respect for all. What better way to get the conversations started than with books.
Elementary- The books below are a great way to start conversations with younger children concerning race or to simply build their self esteem and confidence.
Skin Again: It touches on the topic of race by repeating the fact that the skin I am in is just a covering. It reiterates the fact that to know me you must come inside. The real story of us all lies inside.
Let's Talk About Race: This book explains the difference between race and culture. It also addresses the fact that some people have a misconception about what makes us unique and it is not your race. It helps kids see that we are all the same inside and we each have a story. I love the closing line of the book which says, I will take off my skin, will you.
We're Different, We're the Same- This simple book from Sesame Street helps even the youngest citizens learn that yes, we are all different but yet we share so many things in common. It is a great book to help young readers and learners embrace the diversity among races and even learners in their classes and communities.
The Message in the Mirror- Aria is a smart, talented and pretty young girl who struggles with bullying and low self esteem. Since she only believes that other people are pretty or popular, she constantly seeks validation of her worth. That is until one day when something happens that helps her realize the Message in the Mirror; a message that was there all along. In a time when many children especially those of color want to see themselves reflected, this book lets them see themselves in books and reminds them they are enough.
Picture Perfect Jordan- In a time when boys especially black males are scrutinized for asking for help, their color or any mistake made, this book is needed to remind them that they are enough; picture perfect. It teaches children to believe in themselves, persevere and to seek help when needed. Jordan, learns the best way to face challenges and how to be successful. In the end you’ll discover that you are “picture perfect” too
Something Happened in Our Town- A book that follows a shooting in a town and the discussions held by families. It presents multiple perspectives and allows families to have an open discussion about a serious situation. (It is currently available as audible only, but can be purchased on Amazon)
A Kids Book on Racism- How can you have a difficult conversation with children? Be direct but precise...HONEST. Take this book and help them see that being different and authentic is really, really, really, Good. I promise adults and kids who love this book and hopefully learn to value everyone in the process.
Ebook available on Amazon.
Middle Grade- These books are great for students who are grade 5 and above. The content in these books does not sugar coat, racism or bias, but presents it in a way that children can understand. They are sure to bring about discussions and discourse.
Ghosts Boys- What could a boy from 1950, 2014, and the present all have in common? Unfortunately this phrase says it all, "died too young, too soon." Jewell Rhodes Parker, author of Sugar has done it again, but this time in a novel that is all too familiar in its message. It looks at the life a young man gunned down by a cop as he stands in limbo; telling us how he died and helping us see how his death has impacted his family, community and that of the officer who shot him. While the content is heavy, it teaches a valuable lesson about racial differences, empathy, community, change and forgiveness. It also touches on bullying. The title is profound, GHOSTS. It is as if the characters in the book are ghosts, individuals who were never seen for who they really were. This middle grade book is one that children and adults need to read; change begins with us all.
The Hate You Give-This was a beautifully written novel, and helps to bring to the forefront issues such as why some kids gravitate towards a life in the streets, how the actions of some can affect many, why it is so important to tell your truth and that of others, how the "system" can be both for and against. Instead of offering HATE try LOVE!