Thursday, November 24, 2016

A PSA on Diverse Books

A current trend in children's books is highlighting and embracing diversity, and a book I recently reviewed, The Color Machine, gives a different lilt to that trend, echoing years past when "we treat everyone the same". I think when students are exposed to a variety of backgrounds, it is important to realize that deep down, we are all the same, we are simply human and should learn and grow with each other. 

Recently I read The Black and White Factory by Eric Telchin (Diego Funck, Illustrator) and I thought The Color Machine would be similar. It is not, The Black and White Factory was a slightly silly and very fun story about colors finding there way into a "black and white factory" that makes things like barcodes and can't have colors on them!

Clearly The Color Machine is about the diversity of the world and how it would be better if we all just got along, but in real life, we can't just take away color, how do we teach students empathy and how to embrace diversity to help them become a better generation that accepts all differences, not just race, but disabilities, gender, sexual orientation, etc.? For older students (mature 4th graders +), I think that is a heavy question, but one can start with some of these books: #booksfighthate. I also think it's important to simply learn about the world as well, starting with geography, you could do some of these promoting geography awareness activities and help students learn that the world is not as big as we think, and that all of us are interconnected. 

As I read this book, I thought more and more about the recent election, and not to get too political, but kids are smart, and they are paying attention. We need to give students a place for conversations. Some students are scared and anxious as to what this election means for them. Other students are boastful and mean. For all students, these conversations are important, and we must do so in a safe space. As you prepare to have these conversations, prepare yourself to teach diversity. Along with that, I also liked this video as a discussion starter (review before showing to students, you know your students the best). I also think it's important to truly delve into the deeper issues, not just "have diverse books." This article/book review reminds us that just because the mirror is there (diverse characters), the window may be small (the perspective and stereotypes we are sharing). Of course, when we have these conversations, we must be ready to talk about race and racism, use this book list to help you find the right words and give everyone in your classroom a mirror and a window! 

Other resources: this Delightful Children's Books blog post
10 Children's Books that Teach Diversity, I especially like Little Blue and Little Yellow, similar concept to The Color Machine, but in a slightly different way. 

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