While teaching kindergarten in a predominately Black county not too long ago, I noticed something strange. When asked to color pictures of a family, my class of Black and Brown students were coloring peach skinned, blond, or brown haired people with blue eyes.
They were illustrating white people.
Even for these children of diverse backgrounds, the “default” is White. As sad as it may be, when we look at the media these children consume, like television, posters, advertisements, toys and books, it's easy to understand how this could happen. Minority representation is scarce, and when Black characters do show up they are usually portrayed negatively.
It is imperative that our children are frequently presented with materials that highlight their race in a positive and informative manner. Imagine the pride you can instill in an early childhood student who reads positive stories about Black families, innovators, entrepreneurs, and present day activists? What kinds of minds can we mold with lessons about non-traditional heroes, current events and ways to advocate for disadvantaged groups?
On WeBuyBlack.com you can find materials that teachers, parents, and caregivers can use with students to promote self-love, self-awareness, and self-definition. Check out titles such as Cecilia and the Bumblebees, I Am Me, and Beautiful Brown Boy, all written by Black authors for Black children.
In addition, here are a few apps and websites to help further student achievement at home and at school:
www.webuyblack.com - Our children & toys section has a variety of books and learning materials sold by Black-owned businesses.
We Read Too - App used to locate books with characters of color by authors of color.
www.abcmeflashcards.com - Letter flash cards featuring celebrated Black heroes and heroines
thebrownbookshelf.com - Features books with characters of color by authors of color. Includes books by child authors as well.
www.wambookbundle.com - WAM! Book Bundle delivers a monthly set of culturally diverse children’s books.
For parents and educators, there are lots of good reads about including culture in education. Gloria Ladson-Billings' works, But That’s Just Good Teaching! and Culturally Relevant Pedagogy 2.0 a.k.a. The Remix, can provide valuable information about making education inclusive. Aspiring or current teachers may also want to read Beyond Heroes and Holidays” which challenges the typical inclusion of culture in schools and provides insight to elevating the way we teach children about diverse populations.
These books and materials can not only be shared with your child’s teacher but utilized at home. A child educated only at school is truly an uneducated child. A combination of teacher and parent support is sure to build an unstoppable generation. Let’s continue working together to ensure our future feels empowered and valued in society. This is even more alarming with our current government climate defunding education and catering toward the privileged few. We can almost assure that they will not be looking for culturally appropriate materials for our students.