Are you wondering what to say to your children about racism in the United States? What is too much to say? What is not enough?
Do not wait for children to bring this up to you. We, as a society, need to be proactive in helping build a positive awareness.
Children recognize differences in people at a very young age. They are not too young to be exposed to diversity. Start the conversation early and continue the conversation as children are growing.
The 4-H program is for all who are interested. As parents, volunteers, supporters, educators, we should have confidence in ourselves, as well as in the children we work with, that we can handle these tough conversations and situations. Our role should be to be honest with our children and specific in our answers so the future generation can continue to confront and handle racial injustices that are still evident in our society.
But, where do you start? Utilizing children’s books is a perfect way to begin the conversation.
We all love children’s picture books. They have so many important lessons built into their stories. Use diverse characters in books. Children want to be able to see themselves in books, and this allows an opportunity for further discussion. In addition, when they see characters that are different from themselves, they become more accepting which will stay with them as they grow into adults.
Ask building questions. Use this opportunity as a chance to learn what the children know, what they do not know, and what they might be thinking about race. Then, most importantly, you can help them learn more by asking additional questions and preparing yourself for additional conversations in the future.
It is never too early to have this conversation. If the topic is racism, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, being a good citizen, helping others, or any other topic, starting these important conversations can be done using children’s books.
Incorporate children’s books into every 4-H Cloverbud activity and meeting. We want our 4-H members to grow into caring, competent, contributing citizens. As 4-H parents, volunteers, and supporters, we have an opportunity to have important conversations, so our children are ready to take on the world and make the best better.
Diverse children’s books can be found at embracerace.org, imaginationsoup.net, and pbs.org.
Rebecca Supinger is the OSU Extension 4-H youth development educator.