Post by Eboni N. Walker, 19 February 2021
As an early childhood educator I participate in professional learning opportunities exploring race, implicit bias, and child development. During one such experience, a colleague vulnerably shared how she became aware of her privilege as a white woman at her baby shower. She recounted how she had specifically requested books for the baby’s library and revealed to our group how embarrassed she was upon realizing that none of the books she received reflected children of color.
I will never forget how struck I was by her sharing that story. It never occurred to me that white people would not have books reflecting faces of color in their children’s library. So then I wondered “why would a white person feel the need to buy a book featuring people with brown skin for a white child? Do they know that color matters?”
Infants as young as six months old recognize race-based differences in people. How would you respond to a young child’s inquiry about why someone has brown skin?
Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, former President of Spelman College, and author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race responds to this in her Ted Talk entitled “Is My Skin Brown Because I Drank Chocolate Milk?”
Somewhere in the not-so-distant future, I envision young children talking freely about their differences with curiosity and wonder without feeling guilt or shame. Having a background in psychology and education, I know the importance of helping young children build a positive self image of themselves and their peers.
As we engage together in a more race-conscious society, each of us can be a bearer of diversity and inclusivity for our youngest readers. It is essential that children not only see one another but also celebrate each other’s uniqueness in the world. Take the opportunity this Black History Month to share with infants and toddlers these board books featuring black children and families. Enjoy this month-long calendar of books celebrating African American history any day of the year. Consider buying one of them for your home, a family member or friend, or even a classroom library.
Seeing color in early childhood matters – if you need support developing diversity in your program reach out to Learning Matters today!