Examining diversity in children’s books with high school students

Yesterday, Loving Little Minds had the privilege of hosting a workshop, together with the school’s art teacher, on examining diversity in children’s books with high school students! It was Inclusion Day at Arlington High School in Arlington, Massachusetts, and more than 60 workshops were held on various topics around the school with the goal of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the school community through activities that promote discussion and sharing. It was so much fun to see the kids engaged and interested in such inspiring topics. Nationally celebrated poet, jamele adams, known for his work in diversity, equity, and inclusion, is the event’s keynote speaker.

Our co-president Brian, who is a teacher at the school, helped organize the day, and I was delighted to be a part of it. We decorated the art classroom with various collections of diverse children’s books that LLM has featured in the past for the kids to peruse and read as part of the workshop.

In our discussion, we started by talking about the students’ own connection with children’s books, what their favorite book was as a kid and why, and then got their thoughts on how soon they thought it was appropriate to discuss race and other aspects of diversity with kids. It was fascinating to hear their perspectives on this, as the next generation of caretakers and leaders.

We then touched on the research around when babies begin to notice skin color—as early as 3 months!–and the fact that kids begin to experience discrimination as early as 7 years old. However, U.S. adults believe that kids shouldn’t have conversations around race until they’re almost 5 years old. This delay in introducing the topics of diversity in a healthy way can be detrimental to their understanding of it—with dire consequences, as we’ve seen.

The science behind books show us they’re a powerful tool for empathy and identity, helping us to understand another person’s perspective and also validate our own. This is why they’re a wonderful vehicle for introducing important topics such as inclusion, equity, and global culture in an age-appropriate way.

We then talked about what makes for a great children’s book, and what makes a book diverse–as well as what to avoid when crafting your own diverse children’s book. The kids left beginning to think about what kind of children’s book they would like to write as part of the 3-part workshop.

Next week, we’ll be talking about the unfortunate phenomenon of banned books and further hone and crystallize the stories they’re thinking of telling in their own children’s books.

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