Using Literacy Tools to Teach Diversity

We want our children to grow up loving all races, genders, partner choices, etc. We want them to be accepting of children and adults who are different from them, right?

We want them to know they have choices and voices for their bodies and lives. We want them to know that it is okay to see differences, but not okay to bully people for being different. We want to start showing them life tools for this NOW!

One way to do this is to allow them to take charge of their play and model the type of behaviors you’d like to encourage in your children (consider making a list or journaling about this to be intentional as a parent)! Here are some tips for how to support play.

(See also: “Children ages 3 and 4 are certain about their own gender and have firm beliefs about the differences between males and females. They develop a sense of acceptable behavior from the adults around them.”)

Here are six more tips for how to facilitate the learning of racial inclusion!

9. Plan for a marathon, not a sprint. Make race talks with your child routine. Race is a topic you should plan to revisit again and again in many different ways over time. It’s okay to say, “I’m not sure” or “Let’s come back to that later, okay?” But then be sure to come back to it.”

This means as long as you talk about and read storybooks to your children about sexuality, race, and other topics of diversity, you are doing enough!

Here are literacy tools to help this conversation:

Children’s Books about Families

Children’s Books that Include Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Families

Children’s Literature With Racially Diverse Characters and Themes:

  • Beautiful Moon (2014), by Tonya Bolden. Illus. by Eric Velasquez.
  • Black Cat (1999), by Christopher Myers.
  • Brothers & Sisters: Family Poems (2008), by Eloise Greenfield. Illus. by Jan Spivey Gilchrist.
  • Goggles (1969), by Ezra Jack Keats.
  • Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems (2002), by Eloise Greenfield. Illus. by Jan Spivey Gilchrist.
  • The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen (2014), by Thelma Lynne Godin. Illus. by Vanessa Brantley-Newton.
  • Magic Trash (2015), by J.H. Shapiro. Illus. by Vanessa Brantley-Newton.
  • Subway (2008), by Anastasia Suen. Illus. by Karen Katz.
  • Thanks a Million (2006), by Nikki Grimes. Illus. by Cozbi A. Cabrera.
  • Those Shoes (2007), by Maribeth Boelts. Illus. by Noah Z. Jones.

Tips for Selecting Diverse Children’s Literature:

  • Base your selection on quality. Books should not just teach a lesson but should have a good story, high-quality text, and engaging illustrations.
  • Choose books that help children see themselves. Include books that mirror different aspects of identity (e.g., race, setting, beliefs) of children in the class, so that they can imagine themselves in the story.
  • Choose books that help children expand their understanding of others in this multicultural world. Include books that introduce children to new people, places, and concepts that they may not yet have encountered.
  • Look widely for texts. Be alert to new titles related to diversity. In addition, the library can be a great source for out of print titles that appeal to children and relate to urban issues and diversity.
  • Use text sets. Expose children to different perspectives. These book collections may be organized by theme or may feature the work of a highly accomplished author or illustrator of color. Great picks for books by Black writers and artists include those by Christopher Myers, Floyd Cooper, Jacqueline Woodson, Ashley Bryan, Jerry Pinkney, Brian Pinkney, and E.B. Lewis.

What are some struggles you face in regards to diversity?


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