Recommended Reading for Parents Looking to Start A Conversation with their Children about Racism, Inequality and Diversity.
Book: Little People, Big Dreams: Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King Jr.
Six months ago, my daughter announced that she no longer wanted to be an Embryologist to “help the babies” and only wanted to be a princess. In response, I quickly bought her a bunch of books on historical female heroes to help her feel inspired by people other than Elsa from Disney’s Frozen.
These books worked like a charm and my daughter quickly became inspired by women like Marie Curie, Ada Loveless, Ameila Earhart, and Jane Goodall. She and her brother would often request to read these books and we spent many nights talking about how they, like these inspiring women, could also make amazing discoveries or innovations in their future. .
Wanting to continue with our conversations, I hopped online to look for some additional books from this series.
As I looked through some pretty amazing women, for a moment I hesitated when I thought about purchasing the books on Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. I thought “How am I going to explain slavery and racism to my innocent preschool aged children who don’t yet understand the hate that has been so prevalent in our American history?”
I chatted about it with my husband and decided that she and her brother needed examples of all female heroes, not just European women or ones born of white privilege.
The books arrived in the mail and the kids excitedly opened them up asking for a chance to read them that night before bed. I thought “Let’s see if I can explain these topics with age appropriate language..”
It’s often easy to soften information for children and skew the pain of the past. It’s even easier to avoid it all together.
While my original goal in purchasing these books was to inspire my daughter out of her obsession with princesses, I had no idea that these books would also set the stage for many conversations about their own racial diversity.
Many nights we would discuss why racism started, how historical figures must have felt and how we can be different today. One night I was moved to tears as I heard both of them repeat a line from the Martin Luther King Jr. book, “But hate can’t drive out hate Mama; only love can!”
For those of you who are struggling to talk to your kids about race, start with a book and a conversation about people who have been courageous in the fight for equality.
It’s never too early to start. Children as young as age 3 begin to recognize racial differences. Children of minority families start talking about race much earlier and much more frequently than those of the majority culture.
Perhaps this is because waiting until they are older is a luxury not afforded to all families.
Dr. Melissa Estavillo is a Licensed Psychologist and founder of Biltmore Psychology and Counseling. With over 7 years of experience, she specializes in both individual and couples therapy in Phoenix and Scottsdale, AZ. She integrates complementary methodologies and techniques stemming from Emotionally Focused Theory, Psychodynamic Theory and Other Evidence Based Practices to offer a highly personalized approach tailored to each client.