As CATS plans its ChildCareInfo.com blog posting each month, we try to identify topics, resources, or other information that you might find valuable when working with young children. And we typically try to keep our posting “light and newsy” so that readers will look forward to seeing what we have to say each month. We had already talked about relationships as this month’s topic because family child care is where relationships develop almost automatically.
We’ve altered our plan somewhat – the recent events across the nation are something we simply can’t ignore. As family child care providers, you have not just an opportunity to help young children develop relationships with people who are different from themselves; you have an obligation to provide tools so that perhaps these same children might not need the conversations about diversity that must happen now. Following are some concrete steps you can take to help young children respect and value people who are different from themselves.
Think about your own attitude
Are you comfortable with people who are different from you? Do you treat people with respect and courtesy regardless of their cultural background, socio-economic status, or educational level? Children recognize when their adult role models say one thing and do something different. Examine your own attitudes about differences and identify your personal biases. We all have them – know what yours are and be aware of how those are projected to the children. We all do the best we can with what we know. In this conversation, it’s vital that we learn and practice new ways to deal with today’s issues. Remember – when people know better they do better. Isn’t that what we all want for our future?
Identify clear expectations for children’s behaviors toward each other
Think carefully about the language you use for the children in your program. People (including providers) often refer to the children as “friends.” While that is certainly possible, especially in small groups of children, consider a different way to refer to the children together. It’s inevitable that one day you’ll hear a child tell another “You’re not my friend” when upset or annoyed. Would it be better to set the expectation that whether or not they are all friends, each person will be treated with respect and dignity? Yes, you’ll have to explain what those words mean, but they also demonstrate the expected behavior among all the children, not just those who are “friends.” When children have boundaries about how they treat each other, it helps them recognize acceptable behavior in others.
Expand your own personal diversity resources
Providers are sometimes reluctant to address differences because they are concerned about either their own expertise or the reaction of the parents in their programs. Helping young children learn to navigate the world they live in is critical to helping them develop strong lasting relationships for the rest of their lives. Having diversity resources that you trust and depend on for your own professional growth is important, especially when children may have conversations or questions that come up during their day with you. Two of our favorite sources for diversity and anti-bias materials are NAEYC publications and Redleaf Press. If you don’t already have the books listed below, they’re excellent places to start developing your own diversity resources. They may also be available on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.com.
- Anti-bias Programs for Young Children & Ourselves – Louise Derman- Sparks, Julie Olsen Edwards
- Leading Anti-Bias Early Childhood Programs, Louise Derman- Sparks, Julie Olsen Edwards, John Nimmo
- What if All the Kids are White? Louise Derman-Sparks, Patricia Ramsay, Julie Olsen Edwards
We’ve also included a short list of some of our favorite children’s books that deal with issues diversity in a variety of ways.
- All the Colors We Are – Katie Kissinger
- Bein' With You This Way – W. Nikola-Lisa
- I Am Tooki – Jin Palmer
- Is There Really a Human Race? - Jamie Lee Curtis & Laura Cornell
- No Mirrors in My Nana’s House – Ysaye M. Barnwell
- Red: A Crayon’s Story – Michael Hall
- Shades of People – Shelley Rotner
- The Crayon Box that Talked – Shane DeRolf
- The Sandwich Swap - Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah
- The Sneetches and Other Stories – Dr. Seuss (be sure to read What Was I Scared Of? in this collection)
- We Are All Alike, We Are All Different - written and illustrated by the Cheltenham Elementary School Kindergartners (Scholastic)
- Whoever You Are – Mem Fox
And so, our parting words for this post are more serious than usual. There are many books out there for children; it's how we present the stories the books tell and expand upon them with discussion, etc. that counts. It’s our responsibility to ensure that these conversations happen, at least with the young children in our family child care programs.