Parents are usually surprised to learn just how early babies begin to notice skin color and form their own biases. Studies show that babies as young as three months prefer to look at faces of their own race. Six to nine-month-old babies in one study were found to assign positive music to faces of their own race and negative music to faces of other races. According to research, between 2 and a half and 5 years of age, children use race to choose their playmates, and expressions of race prejudice often peak at age four or five. Also, at age five, white children strongly favor other white children as playmates. By the time a child starts kindergarten, they likely have the same viewpoints on race as the adults in their life.
It’s important to teach children to celebrate diversity.
Parents often think that their child doesn’t have bias, has no prejudice, and does not see or understand color or race. The truth is everyone is biased. If you have a brain, you have bias. All children have biased attitudes based on what they experience, perceive, and learn from the adults around them and their environment in general. Children see color. They learn colors as babies, and they are very observant. Children absolutely see the color of people’s skin; they just don’t have the language to talk about it.
We are doing our children a huge disservice by not providing them with the language to discuss race. When we do not talk about race and culture, entire communities become invisible. The best thing we can do to teach our children to be socially conscious and anti-racist is to provide them with the proper language early on and answer questions as they arise.
Best Books to Teach Kids to Celebrate Diversity
We must teach young children to celebrate diversity, not shy away from it. Experts agree that one of the best ways to educate young children about diversity is through age-appropriate books and stories. We completed a round-up of some of the best books out there to start reading to children, starting with babies.
Best Book for Babies
One Love by Cedella Marley
This book is based on the song by Bob Marley. Vanessa Brantley-Newton beautifully illustrates this book. We had the opportunity to interview Brantley-Newton about her children’s books. She uses various mediums to create gorgeous and interesting illustrations to help children and adults see the beauty of diversity. She said the most important way to teach young children about diversity is to talk to children, read to children, and sing to children. Talking to young children and adding to their vocabulary gives them the language to fully express themselves.
Best Book for Toddlers
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers
Young children love to look at other young children, and this beautifully illustrated book is full of babies and toddlers of all races and ethnicities. It reads like a poem, making it perfect for young children to listen to again and again.
Best Book for Pre-schoolers
We’re Different, We’re the Same by Sesame Street
Children learn by putting things into categories. From a very young age, children notice likes and differences in everything they come into contact with. Children must learn that just because someone looks different on the outside does not mean they belong in a different category from themselves. This book helps children understand that everyone has traits and characteristics that make them unique and special.
Best Book for Ages 5-8
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
This beautiful book about diversity helps children understand that it is normal to sometimes feel like an outsider. This book helps children learn lessons about empathy and inclusion.
Best Book for Children of All Races
Tina Searches for Her Dream by Nancy Ganz
We love the concept behind this book! It comes in three versions, Tina: Lightest Skin Tone, Tina: Medium Skin Tone, and Tina: Deepest Skin Tone. Children can literally pick the book cover that looks most like them!
It is important for the healthy development of racial identity that children see themselves positively represented in their community. This variety of main characters allows children to identify with the story. We also had the opportunity to interview author Nancy Ganz and learned that it is very important to her that children are empowered by the books that they read. You will see more from this author as this is just the first book in a series of 12 books focused on social-emotional learning. This is the first book for sale on Amazon that offers this type of character customization.
We need to consider race identity and combating bias in all we do with young children. Children need to see diversity in their everyday lives, and they need to see their own culture represented and celebrated. These great book options will help you get one step closer to that!
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