About Me

My little button

Our Little Tongginator

Blog Archive

Design by

Weaksauce Blogs
Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Talk

I didn't expect to have The Talk with the Tongginator at such a young age. Newly five seems a tad early to tackle such an adult topic, but the world is what it is. And recent events showed me that now was the time.

I'm talking about racism, y'all. (Wait... what were YOU thinking?)

After my all too recent parenting failure, I ran straight to Amazon Reviews and my local library for book suggestions. Although our home library is filled to the brim with multicultural books (especially from my teaching days), we didn't have exactly what we needed. As is often the case, not much exists out there. Many childrens books touch on transracial adoption (and therefore looking different from your parents), many touch on celebrating different races, but not many deal with actual racism. Which of course disappoints me, because I'm freaking terrified slightly scared to come up the with the words on my own. I ended up purchasing several books... some I like, some I don't, but all have good and bad points to them.

What If Zebras Lost Their Stripes: This ingenious book explores what might happen if zebras lost their stripes, making half all white and half all black. "Would they think that it's all right, or would the Zebras start to fight?" The book emphasizes looking at zebra hearts rather than colors and does briefly mention God when it states, "I know why God gave Zebras stripes - So that there'd be no black or white." This book acted as a great springboard for discussion with the Tongginator, but I could also see that the specific black/ white colors of the zebras limited my daughter's ability to related the book's message to her personal experiences. I suspect that an African-American or Caucasian child might find it easier to transition this book's message from figurative to literal.

The Skin I'm In, A First Look at Racism: I found this book to be the most helpful, by far. It assisted me in finding age-appropriate words when talking with the Tongginator. It gives specific examples of racist behaviors, both obvious and hidden, plus is explains that "you must never keep racist behavior a secret. Always tell an adult you trust about it. The people who love you and care about you will be able to help." I doubt, however, that a child younger than five or six could easily grasp the deeper meanings within this book unless they witnessed or experienced racism recently. Children from late kindergarten through third grade should find this book most helpful. One caveat - despite the book stating that "anybody of any skin color can be a racist," the antagonists depicted as racists were all Caucasian men, save for one Sikh man.

The Skin You Live In: Although this book's primary purpose is to celebrate different races, it does touch on racism when it states, "It's not dumb skin or smart skin, or keep us apart skin; or weak skin or strong skin, I'm right and you're wrong skin." I feel this book would work well even with young children not yet exposed to obvious forms of racism. It celebrates diversity with cheer and tackles differences beyond skin color such as freckles, hair color and eye shape.

Beyond these three books and any others y'all suggest in the comments below, I feel everyone - whether they parent a child of a minority race or not - should fill their home libraries with books and movies depicting people of many races, religions and cultures. The way to stop racism before it begins is to expose your child to a diverse world and media.

If you don't know where to start, check out the National Education Association's list of 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Read as well as the Database of Award-Winning Children's Literature (DAWCL), where you can search using many criteria, including the ethnicity/ nationality of the story's protagonist. This database contains over 7,000 titles from 78 awards across six English-speaking countries. These award-winners include ALA Notables, Caldecotts and Newberys, appropriate for young readers of all ages. Also, if you've adopted from China, you may wish to join the free Yahoo! group China Adoption Library if only to access the database.

25 comments:

Emilie said...

I’ve got something for you on my blog! :)http://www.babylovingmama.blogspot.com/

happygeek said...

poor Emilie.
She never saw it comin'.
Thanks for the resources.
Maybe you should write a kids book on racism. It'd make the colonel very happy!

The Byrd's Nest said...

Such a hard subject...so sad that people DO see color. It must make God grieve.

Upstatemomof3 said...

I have no advice. As we have not had to have this talk yet. But I want to say thank you for the reviews. I may pick up some of those books for when we do. I am so scared it is coming when he starts kindergarten in the fall. Now, I have to go read what happened.

Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

I was just going to say the same thing "Happy Geek" said.....Oh Boy, is Emilie in for a real treat today:)

You are the best...thanks for sharing these books with us....they all sound like they have some sort of message that the kids can take away with them. And you are right....it does not matter what our childs ethnicity, we should be teaching all of them about this subject.

jen@odbt said...

Thanks for these books. I'll have to check them out at the library. We haven't had to deal with these questions yet but I'm sure they're going to pop up soon.

Dawn said...

Poor, poor Emilie. That's all I'll say. (Except to snicker!!!)

I'm thinking you've got a book or two floating around in that brain of yours just itching to get out. Have you thought about it? Tried?

Just start jotting down your thoughts as they come to you. You can organize later.

Blessings!

Saint Louis Family Robinson said...

Excellent! I love book reviews! Thanks!

Aunt LoLo said...

BBJ is still too young to really appreciate Racism, or recognize it. She DOES, however, call every Asian woman over the age of 35 "MaMa" (her paternal grandmother). She has a lot of grandma's now...

She IS starting to notice differences, though. Just yesterday, during a (very healthy ;-)) McDonald's lunch, she pointed her arm Straight Out at a girl seated behind us, and said, "LOOK, MOMMY!" I turned around, nervously, to see what she was pointing at. It was a cute little girl with white-blond hair and glasses. "SHE'S GOT PRETTY GLASSES!" I wish she'd stop Straight Out Pointing at people we see in restaurants, but I am grateful that nothing she is pointing out has any Baggage with it yet. It's just pretty glasses, or a neat walking stick, or a Chinese lady that reminds her of Grandma. Just once, though, I wish the subject of her Point would turn around and talk to us so I could explain why my daughter is going all Hunting Dog on them. (And we're working on the not pointing thing...did I mention that?)

Chelsea Gour said...

Thank you so much for this post. This is something we haven't encountered yet and I haven't had time to think about. But, I know it will come up and now I don't need to scramble around too late looking for something! As a former teacher, I also have a house full of children's books and many are multi-cultural...though, not enough yet. Anyway, thanks!

Briana's Mom said...

Thank you so much for posting this today. You know I needed it. :)

Kerry said...

Wonderful post TM! We have the second two books you listed and this issue is something I too struggle with and work hard at. Thank you for this post and the resources you listed.
We also like the book the- Colors of Us- although like most of our books, it deals more with celebrating differences and colors rather than overt racism.
Hugs and thanks.

Debbie said...

And it's a talk that we have to have over and over unfortunately. Because it doesn't go away.

Kim said...

Thanks for the great review! Hannah has been having a lot of questions lately regarding skin color. Although we talk about celebrating our differences I know the world out there doesn't always see things our way.

Laura L. said...

Hi,
Thanks for doing this post. I will definitely make note of these books and check them out.
I do want to be prepared when the time comes.
We're getting more and more multicultural books in the house. I do need to get some like these though.
Thanks!

Peanut said...

I know I've said it before, but I'm glad to have your blog as a resource, since the Tongginator is a little older than KK. I'll definitely check out those books.

Oh, and I really did think you meant the OTHER talk... only because we recently had THAT ONE. Me and KK. In detail. Completely lead by her questions (and she had some surprisingly insightful questions.)

Sharon said...

Thanks for the recommend!! And for daring to broach the dubjects! Keep it up, you are my hero!

Sharie said...

Thank you for this. I was just about to purchase some new books and now I have some to add to the list.

Sharie

CC said...

thanks for the list!

Soliloquy said...

I love having you as a friend and resource.

Prepare yourself for a slew of questions when babytime arrives.

Michelle said...

Thanks for sharing these books, TM!

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Those books look great!
We used to have crayons of all different flesh tones for the kids to play with. They enjoyed making their drawings look like their many different colored friends!

Misty said...

i also love getting good (quality) book rec's... i was happy to go over to the 50 book list and then sad that i had only read a few myself!

RamblingMother said...

Thank you for the reveiws. I will check the last two out for sure. Interesting it is the men who are offensive in the one book. Men are also the strangers kids should look out for too in safety books.

Janet said...

Great list of books! I will be ordering some of those FOR SURE!