High River United Church of High River, Alberta
        

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Jun

It is Essential to Choose for Diversity in Books for Younger Children

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I grew up with picture books with children who were white-skinned, usually with blond hair, though sometimes with brown. The families in the books always had two parents, one male and one female. What we see and experience repeatedly as children becomes what we consider normal. This sense of what is normal is formed at a very young age and shapes our assumptions and biases going forward. It is possible to keep expanding what one considers normal, but it takes intention and effort.

 

That’s why it is so important that we choose books for our children that expand their understandings and perceptions of cultures and people. When choosing a children’s book, look carefully. Are all the children white or Caucasian? (Why aren’t Caucasians called pink people? That would be more accurate. Pale skin also is accurate). Spend time looking for picture books for young children that reflect their colour of skin (if not Caucasian) or a diversity of skin colour, clothing and customs.

 

Children will easily embrace a broad spectrum of what it means to be human – and that is a gift we must give them now. Racism and bias that favours pale skin has gone on for too long. When Jesus said, “Love your neighbour!” he didn’t mean those with pale skin. Despite all those white skin pictures you see of Jesus, remember he was Middle Eastern and would have had olive colour skin and likely black (possibly curly) hair.

 

It may be hard to explain to younger children what is happening right now in terms of protests. What you can do is teach them, by your own example and words, and by the books, movies and shows you share with them, and by the people you make friends with that God’s image is reflected in every skin colour and culture. If a young child notices that someone’s skin is a different colour or their way of dressing different or some other aspect of another person, don’t hush them up – rather respond with a “Yes, isn’t that amazing and wonderful!” The goal is not to be colour-blind, but rather to celebrate the wonder of the diversity with which God created the world. Then, the next goal is to pay attention to words, teasing, and actions that reflect a racial bias, to challenge them and stop them in yourself and others. And then, it is, as adults, to work to challenge and change the systemic racism within our society, so that our children grow up knowing that everyone truly is equally respected and valued in our society.

 

Here are some books that I’d recommend that reflect diversity and introduce a variety of cultural perspectives and people:

“A Church for All” by Gayle E. Pitman

“All I Want to Be Is Me” by Phyllis Rothblatt

“And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

“Honour the Drum” by Cheryl Bear and Tim Huff

“I am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

“Long Powwow Nights” by David Bouchard

“Max Found Two Sticks” by Brian Pinkney

“Mommy’s Khimar” by Jamilah Thomplkins-Bigelow

 “Shi-shi-etko” by Nicola I. Campbell

 “Shin-chi’s Canoe” by Nicola I. Campbell

 “Sulwe” by Lupita Nyong'o 

 “The Marvelous Mud House: a story of finding fullness and joy” by April Graney

 “The Lord’s Prayer” illustrated by Tim Ladwig

 “To Be a Drum” by Evelyn Coleman

 “Under the Ramadan Moon” by Syliva Whitman

 “When Daddy Prayers” by Nikki Grimes

 “Yaffa and Fatima: Shalom, Salaam” by Fawzia Gilani-Williams

 

June 4, 2020            ©Susan Lukey 2020

High River United Church, High River, AB

www.highriverunitedchurch.org

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123 MacLeod Trail S.W. High River, Alberta.

(403) 652-3168

hruc@telus.net

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