How to start exposing diversity to your child
Sometimes I get so caught up in work/mom-life I tend to forget about the real world. Rarely do I catch up on current events because all I really want to do is rest peacefully. Does this sound like you? Well, I had a lot of time off and it’s ironic and sad to see that the human race is struggling to co-exist considering we live in a country that’s been called the melting pot for centuries. “Why can’t we just be like cows, horses, cats, or dogs? I wish it was that simple.
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Why should you expose diversity to your child?
We are living in a country where the minority is the majority and the LGBTQ+ community is also continuing to grow. This increases the risk of stereotypes, bullying, prejudice, and racism. This ignorance and hatred come from people not being properly educated and aware of these groups.
It’s scary to know that this is the world our kids will continue to live in if we don’t start doing our part. As parents, it’s our responsibility to start exposing diversity to our kids so that they can become socially and emotionally intelligent beings potentially preventing future bullying, violence, and racism.
In this post, I will offer a few resources that are readily available for you so that you can be informed on both racial and gender diversity, how these resources will open you to more tips and recommendations to start exposing your child early-on about gender and cultural diversity, and how you can continue to engage your child on gender and cultural diversity to prepare him/her for the real-world.
Related Real-World Posts:
Disclaimer: I am no expert and am just learning all about this. However, I have found several resources that are helpful for my kids and may be helpful for your kids. Keep reading if you want to learn how to start exposing diversity to your child.
A common issue on exposing diversity to children
I received a text not too long ago regarding a book subscription promoting racial diversity and LGBTQ+ in books for children. I was embarrassed to realize how picky I am with books and not once have I thought to choose books that expose my children to such a problematic issue in today’s society. Even more so, that we have bi-racial and gender diverse relatives in both me and my husband’s family. This is when I started to dive in.
I found this to be a common issue where parents are not exposing, teaching, or talking with their kids about diversity. In November 2019, a survey was conducted on 6,070 parents who have children.
“-only 10 percent of parents discuss race often with their children.
-a parent’s race impacts how often these conversations are happening.
–Twenty-two percent of black parents discuss race often with their children, compared to 6 percent of white parents.
Nearly 35 percent of all parents surveyed said they never talk to their children about social class.
–Fifty-seven percent of all parents said they rarely or never talk about gender with their kids. These conversations are less likely to happen with younger children. Less than a third of parents of 3- to 5-year-old kids discuss race and ethnicity sometimes or often.”
-author of Too few parents talk to their kids about race and identity Jackie mader (2019)
I was surprised to find that only 10% of parents are discussing race with their kids. It made me wonder if these numbers increased during the 2020 riots. I wasn’t able to find anything more current either than conducting my own survey (crickets.) Needless to say, I’m doing my part and starting now (Thank you Mimi).
How do you expose diversity to a child?
So, this book subscription company is called Ourshelves. My initial intention was to purchase books for my eldest who is 11. However, I noticed that there were books for children as young as 0 and stops at age 8. I began to think if it was even possible to teach diversity to young children, which may be a reason why these types of conversations are less likely to happen with younger children. This made me wonder if younger children even have the capabilities to learn about diversity.
I’m very interested to see how these books are written considering that these are such sensitive and complex subjects, especially for a child. I read an article titled, Teaching Diversity To Your Kids. The author gives an example of a 4-year-old-boy who lives in a diverse neighborhood having issues going to pre-school because his teacher had brown skin.
As I just mentioned, he lives In a diverse neighborhood, exposed to diversity, and has even had a babysitter who was African American. His teacher was from Africa and had an accent. His mother had some concerns about her child being racist.
However, according to a psychologist, it’s natural for kids at this age to differentiate people by their sex, appearances, and how they speak. This occurs as early as 3-months old. The author further researched the development of racial differences by age 3 months to 5-years-old.
“Studies have found that infants as young as 3 months instinctively categorize people based on their sex, skin color, and the language they speak. Between 5 and 9 months, babies begin to learn about race based on experience, according to a study in the journal Developmental Science. Research shows that 3- to 5-year-olds not only categorize people by race but express bias based on it. Overcoming these types of inherent prejudice will take a proactive effort on your part, and it needs to start early—before your child’s opinions are fully formed”
-Author of Teaching Diversity To Your Kids Michelle Crouch (2019)
So, can you teach diversity to a child? YES, it is possible to teach young children about diversity.
3 tips to start exposing cultural diversity to your child right now
- When serving ethnic foods talk to your child about that culture
- Read books about diversity to your child (go to the library and check out diversity books or subscribe/purchase books about diversity)
- Watch culture-related TV shows/children’s movies (Aladdin, Pocahontas, Coco, Mulan, Over the Moon, Lilo and Stitch, Moana, Ni-hao Kai Lan, Diego, Dora, etc)
Going back on the topic of complex subjects, I was curious about the + in LGBTQ+ (no pun intended.) I always thought the LGBTQ covered everything. What am I missing? So – I googled it.
I was amazed at how uninformed I was considering that I had friends and family within this community. What I’m really trying to say is, if you’re going to teach your child about this community, then definitely be a little more informed because it’s really complex; hence the +. In short, there were too many labels to fit all the letters of those labels in an acronym.
Ourshelves claims to offer books on gender diversity. These books are offered to children as young as 0-2 years old. I have recently made a subscription and am expecting 3 books. I am hoping that one of the books is about gender diversity. I will include updates within this post.
After subscribing to Ourshelves, I wondered if there were other companies that offered the same thing. So, I googled it (I’m beginning to sound like; there’s an app for that!).
I surprisingly found that there were 18 other companies that offer book subscriptions on diversity, feminism, the indigenous, and female/culture empowerment for children. You can check out the list here.
3 tips to start exposing gender diversity to your child right now
- Be gender neutral when speaking of clothes, toys, and chores (example: not buying your daughter cars because boys only play with cars and not buying your son a pretend-play kitchen because girls only do the cooking)
- Make attempts at not placing pressure on your child to conform to a specific gender role (example: don’t walk/talk like that, only girls walk/talk like that, don’t play in the sand, only boys get dirty)
- Make attempts to not use gender-specific words (example: when your child is doing something that may seem feminine try not to say; you’re girly or you’re such a girl. When your child is doing something masculine try not to say; what a tomboy or you’re so macho.)
Resources to start exposing and teaching diversity to your child
Included are several websites I found with tips and recommendations on ways to expose and engage your children on racial and gender diversity.
- Embracerace.org (can we just take a moment to embrace the site’s name?) A website to support parents and educators on the topic of racial diversity and how they can educate children on that topic. The site has some resources/tips on how you can keep your kids informed and even engaged. The site also has some good anti-racist book recommendations for older children and empowering books for older girls. You definitely have to check this site out.
- OK2BMe.ca (I love the site’s name and would make someone of this community feel supported already) is based in Canada and is really a site to support people of the LGBTQ+ community both youth and adults. The site goes into detail on the LGBTQ+ acronym so that you can understand the community better when learning about gender diversity.
- Hellosubscription.com A website that curates some of the best diverse book subscriptions for children with an endless list of books and activities for the under-represented groups. Within this list, you will also find Ourshelves, which is a book subscription company that sends a book/books (depending on your subscription) to you every 3 months in December, March, June, and September. They want to inform and empower communities regarding racial and gender diversity, and it is through our subscriptions/recommendations that will help them to do so.
- Rebekah Gienapp.com An activist, mother, religious educator, and writer whose mission is to provide resources on social justice to parents and educators to raise young compassionate activists. Her free guides offer many tips and book recommendations for your child on social justice. After researching heavily, I found her site to be the perfect site that offers a lot of info, guidance, and resources on exposing/teaching/engaging your child on gender diversity aside from all social justice issues. You can find the specific post here. She has plenty of helpful tips regarding gender diversity for parents/educators. She even offers some book recommendations that I was able to finally get a glimpse of how children’s books can teach about gender diversity. She wrote a separate post on LGBTQ picture books for younger children found here. I just signed up for a couple of her free guides.
How to keep your child diversity engaged
The first step is exposing your child, but there’s no real learning if they’re not actually engaged. They can be aware of the situation and you can inform them a little more on the topic, but we really have to engage them so that they can apply that knowledge when they are out in the real world.
- When watching the news with your children, start engaging them as soon as diversity issues arise, ask questions, ask how it makes them feel, and what they would do.
- Regularly read diversity books to you your child.
- Stay gender-neutral by not giving in to gender roles on objects, things, or chores. Start making attempts at not labeling toys, clothes, activities as gender-related and regularly do so.
- Bring your child to community outreach programs or maybe see if you and your child can volunteer.
- I recently learned that Lovevery, a toy subscription that I also subscribe to, actually includes books that expose diversity within their play kits
Related Posts: Why Lovevery Play Kits Are Worth It
What are the benefits of teaching your child about diversity?
Your child will benefit from this because it will increase their social and emotional growth. They will be able to understand the many different cultures and people living in our world today. They will be kind, caring, and have a positive attitude towards people who are different. This will result in your child respecting unique people and people of different backgrounds while also potentially decreasing world violence, bullying, and racism.
Living in a diverse country, as parents, it is our responsibility to start exposing and teaching our children about racial and gender diversity. This will increase their social and emotional intelligence thus decreasing hatred, bullying, violence, and racism amongst these groups and hopefully resulting in a less hatred world.
A survey conducted in November of 2019, concluded that only 10% of parents are discussing race with their children, while 57% of parents stated that they rarely or don’t even talk about gender with their kids – this is especially true for parents who have younger children. Having found no recent data, especially after the 2020 riots, I wanted to be the change in that 10%.
Wondering if it was even possible to teach children at a young age, studies show that babies as young as 3 months are already distinguishing a person by their sex, appearance, and their language. Children’s books on diversity are very under-represented and companies like Ourshelves, are trying to change that. After being introduced to Ourshelves, I have found that there are many more companies like Ourshelves.
In order for change to happen, we have to engage our children regularly on diversity. Let’s be the change in that 10%.
Ourshelves Book Subscription Update
We finally received our first Ourshelves book subscription! Yay!
I purchased the 3-book subscription plan and purchased the Sunshine Box. The Sunshine Box is for babies 0-2 years of age. My toddler is 20 months old. Before I continue, I just want to go over the different box options. There are 3 box options:
- Sunshine 0-2 years old
- Rainbow Box 2-5 years old
- Treehouse Box 5-8 years old
Again, my toddler is 20 months old. I purchased the Sunshine box because it was recommended by Ourshelves. There were a few questions from parents regarding their child falling at the cusp of age ranges and questioning which box they should choose. Ourshelves mentions on their site that you can switch between the two options if your child falls at the cusp age. You would just have to contact them letting them know what your preferences are.
Here is the list of the 3 books we received.
My toddler’s favorite out of the 3 is Baby Goes to Market. This book exposes an African mother with her baby. They go to the market and while the mom is shopping, the baby is given free fruit from the sellers at the market. This book also teaches your child different fruits and numbers up to 6.
Her second favorite out of the 3 is Rosa Loves Cars. This book, as it states, embraces the uniqueness of each child and promotes gender equality. Rosa has many friends from different backgrounds and this book portrays that very nicely with the color of their skin and their ethnic names. This book also teaches your child about cars, their sounds, and what they do.
The last book is Pride Colors. This book exposes, through their pictures, how couples of the same gender can have children. I loved how the author also included children from different backgrounds. It was a twofer for sure. So, I really loved this book and it was my favorite out of the 3. The author explains in such a lovely/rhyming way that a child will be loved and excepted regardless of who they are and who they grow up to be. This book also teaches your child about colors.
Our next book order is supposed to ship out in March. I cannot wait. In the meantime, I’m thinking of even offering a play area on diversity similar to my holiday play space. You can watch my toddler at work on diversity exposure here.
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