Teaching diversity appreciation to your child doesn't have to be avoided like the dreaded sex talk. I have a few books that can help your child 5 and under get a basic understanding.
A lot of parents think they need to wait until a child is much older before they start talking about some of the differences among humans, whether they be cultural, religious, or ethnical. But what we don’t realize is that by waiting that long, chances are that the child has already learned a lot via peers and others. The problem is that this information is often filled with bias, prejudice, and ignorance.
Children will learn about stereotypes soon enough, even before they realize it. I want to start the foundation of what my child knows before all that so that they can better discern between the truth and any stereotypes they may later learn. He can find confidence in defending the truth and do his part in supporting inclusion.
Here are some books that I incorporate in the book collection that I read. They serve as his introduction to the diverse history of the world, and the great people in it.
- My Daddy, by Martin Luther King III
- This book gives us a synopsis of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the dynamics of the relationship between he and his son.
- This Jazz Man, by Karen Ehrhardt
- I've mentioned before that my son loves music, and a lot of other toddlers or preschoolers are the same. I love this book because it teaches him to appreciate creativity and diversity in music without the bore of a school lesson.
- Whoever You Are, by Mem Fox
- When I read this book, my son points to certain people that look like his friends at daycare, or countries that he's either visited or lived in. Since my husband is not a native-born American, my son has had the opportunity to be exposed to other cultures and languages at infancy. I explain to him that there are people that share some of the same features or culture, and that we celebrate and appreciate both those similarities and differences. This books helps me do that.
I think the importance is not to start explaining too much of the pains and injustices that have come with our country's history, but I want him to start becoming familiar with the faces and accomplishments of great people. I want him to know the good, bad, and the ugly of the past, but to ease into it without completely shielding him completely. Right now, just understanding that there is no problem with having differences will help him to work well with others and appreciate them. Teaching and reinforcing concepts that your child can readily understand should be preferred, like sharing and being kind to others. I read books that show how people of all backgrounds are making the world better each loving act at a time. You can highlight the culture we are celebrating at the time (Black History or Hispanic Heritage months, for example) by showcasing the achievements of people of those backgrounds. Later on this year, I'll share some other American history books I like to read with my son.