I'd like to direct your eyeballs over to Rita Ahrens' post on BlogHer today where she points to a British study that confirms that children learn their views of race/racism from their parents, but especially from mothers since mothers tend to be the primary caregivers. But we knew that, right?
Bunny is at the age right now (kindergarten) where she is starting to become aware of the physical differences in people: skin, eye, and hair color; tallness; skinniness; etc.
In the last two months she's asked me why one friend (who is Chinese) doesn't look like her white parents. And she asked another friend directly why her dad (who is white) doesn't have dark skin like her. I happened to overhear that conversation and her friend simply said, "Because my dad has white skin and I look like my mom." Bunny nodded and off they went to play. End of story. If only it could be like that with adults, too.
A child's curiosity is natural and we keep conversations age-appropriate and truthful: people come in all shapes, sizes and colors and may have different abilities, orientations, or beliefs. But all of that makes the world a more interesting place.
My girls have a grandmother who is pure Korean. At first glance, they may not look like part of the same family, and I'm sure that my 1/4 Korean girls will have to confront people asking them why they have an Asian grandma. My 100% Korean cousins and I went to the same school when we were little, and I remember kids not believing that we were related. My girls will have to be prepared for those questions, too. (They may also face the same questions about their 100% white grandma.) I want talking about our similarities and differences to be natural and so when the girls have questions we speak openly
I also have some great books (some that I used to read to my students when I was a teacher) to share to start the discussion about people and their similaries and differences. Reading these together as a family reinforces the values we are teaching to our children:
- Whoever You Are (we may look different, but inside we are all the same)
- Someone Special, Just Like You
- We Are All Alike, We Are All Different (writtten by kids)
- The Colors of Us (my girls' particular favorite—they love finding "their color.")
- This Is The Way We Go To School
- Children Just Like Me (a UN book and one of my favorites)
- Girl, You're Amazing
- The Lovables in the Kingdom of Self-Esteem
- I'm Gonna Like Me
- The Name Jar (about having a "different" name)
- And Tango Makes Three (penguin with two dads)
I'd say all of these books are appropriate for ages preK-3rd grade. Look for them at your library or bookstore. (Or, if you live near me, I'm happy to share them!)