skin color, young children, physical differences, bulletin board, hair color, illustrations, hair texture, physical characteristics, help children, Social Studies, Morris, developmentally appropriate, New York, Maria Lopez, human diversity, Preschool Children Kristen M. Kemple, Brown Eyes, Multicultural Education, References Ajmera, Challenge children, skin colors, conversation starters, Blue Eyes, native instruments, physical diversity, Maria Lopez Prompt, Study children, opportunities for learning, Leslie Staub, Derman-Sparks, Emily Arnold McCully, racial diversity, Isabel, physical appearance, Predicates Myles Pinkney, multicultural books, children's names, Chris Raschka, eye-catching illustrations, Myles C. Pinkney, respect for diversity means, Helping children
Children notice physical characteristics of others and develop attitudes toward human diversity at a very young age. High-quality children
's literature is a helpful springboard to encourage their awareness of differences and to develop their appreciation of uniqueness. Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes, Cornrows, and Curls: Building on Books to Explore Physical Diversity With preschool children
Kristen M. Kemple and Maria Lopez
Several children are playing in the dramatic play corner, trying on the new collection of interesting hats and looking at each other in the large mirror. Four-yearold David says to Heejeong (who is Korean), "You have funny eyes." Sophia and Tim join in, asserting, "Yeah, you look funny. You're Chinese." Sophia, Tim, and David giggle and make squinted-eye faces. Ms. Shelton, who has witnessed this exchange, is feeling awkward, uncomfortable, and concerned. She says to the three laughing children, "That is mean. You will make her sad. You three may not play with the hats anymore." To Heejeong she says, "You can play with the hats, honey, because you are a nice girl." * ** A group of 3-year-old girls is gathered at the sandbox toward the end of the day. Isabel is biracial, Serena is Hispanic, and Millie is white. Isabel's mother (who is African American
) briefly stops by the sandbox to say "hi" before going inside to retrieve Isabel's belongings. As she walks away from the sandbox, Isabel's mom overhears one of the girls ask, "Why is your mom's hair always all wrinkled?" * ** Red-haired, freckled Thomas' grandmother slathers him with sunblock before leaving him on the playground at his Head Start program. His AfricanAmerican classmate Dante comments, "You gotta have a lot of that...you're white."
Thomas scowls with exasperation, "Am not. I'm beige. With dots." Dante laughs, shaking his head, "Man, you are white, white, white." As Thomas stomps past Dante and a teacher, he mutters, "Man, don't he have eyes?" young children
Are Curious About Diversity In each of these three scenarios, a young child has noticed and commented upon an observable, physical human difference related to race and/or geographical origin. Children start to notice these differences at an early age. Babies as young as 6 months old begin to notice variations in skin color. By age 2, children begin to ask questions about physical differences in others. By age 9, children's attitudes toward diversity are solidified Kristen M. Kemple, Ph.D., is associate professor
, Early Childhood Education, School of Teaching and Learning, University of Florida
, Gainesville. Her writing and research focus on the social aspects of early childhood education. As a Teacher Educator
and former Head Start teacher, she has worked with diverse children and parents. Maria Lopez, M.Ed., is a teacher and administrator in Miami, Florida, where she works with culturally diverse children and families
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and generally do not change unless altered by significant events (Wham, Barnhart, & Cook, 1996). It is really not surprising that children notice physical differences among people very early in their lives. Physical variations such as skin color, hair color, and hair texture (curly, straight, fuzzy) are observable and tangible. They are hard not to notice! Young children see that dogs and cats
have tails and four legs, but are different in other ways. They notice at an early age that the things adults call flowers actually come in many shapes and colors. Just as young children notice that humans come in a range of sizes (babies, children, adults), they see that people comein different shapes and colors as well. Often, the characteristic that children are quickest to recognize is skin color. This certainly makes sense...skin is the biggest observable part of people! During the early years, children learn and grow at a rapid rate. One of many important areas of development during these years is a sense of self
. In early childhood, the development of a positive selfidentity is closely related to how a child feels about his or her physical characteristics (Wardle, 1992). In the preschool years, the observable physical self is an important component of children's emerging knowledge of self and of others. Children's early awareness of self is based on their own activities and the results of those activities (I can build a tower. I can knock it down. I can make things happen!) as well as on awareness of physical categories and gradations of self such as size, gender, hair color, and skin color.
Subjects & Predicates It is really not surprising that children notice such physical differences among people very early in their lives. Physical differences such as skin color, hair color, and hair texture (curly, straight, fuzzy) are observable and tangible. They are hard not to notice!
Later in childhood, characteristics such as likes, dislikes, and personality traits
become increasingly important components of children's knowledge of self and others as well. In the preschool years, however, these less tangible aspects of self are harder for children to think about and consider. When describing themselves and others, young children tend to focus on the concrete and the
observable: On characteristics that can be seen and touched (Damon & Hart, 1988). Respond to Curiosity and Promote Respect Early experiences can help children develop positive attitudes toward persons of different racial group
s (Fry, 1994). Caring adults
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can sensitively respond to children's natural curiosity about the differences they observe among people. Adults can help children explore their ideas, curiosity, and feelings about physical differences such as skin color, hair texture, and facial structure. Guided opportunities to sort through ideas and feelings can help protect children from racist attitudes that can endanger their self-concept and/or lead them to reject those who are different from themselves. A proactive, anti-bias approach (Derman-Sparks and the A.B.C. Task Force, 1990) can promote the development of positive selfconcept and comfort in interacting with a wide range of people. An approach based not on color-blind denial, but rather on color-filled celebration, acknowledges that physical differences do exist, and they are fine and natural. Reconsider the three scenarios described at the beginning of this article. In each of these situations, how might a skilled teacher respond in an open, supportive, way? How might the adult acknowledge children's natural curiosity, and facilitate positive attitudes toward human diversity? In the first case, for example, a more helpful response may have been, "Heejeong's eyes look different from yours, don't they, David? She has beautiful sloped brown eyes. You have beautiful large blue eyes. How about Sophia's eyes? Look in the mirror, Sophia...you have two eyes also! How do your eyes look?" Because young children focus on the concrete and the observable, and because they are engaged in the all-consuming work of making sense of their world, children comment upon and ask questions about those differences. Their healthy curiosity and questions cannot be ignored.
Subjects & Predicates Guided opportunities to sort through ideas and feelings can help protect children from racist attitudes that can endanger their self-concept and/or lead them to reject those who are different from themselves.
A proactive color-filled celebration approach seeks to · enable children to develop ease with, and respect for, physical differences · help children become aware of the shared common physical characteristics that make everyone human beings
· enable children to feel pride, but not superiority, about their racial identity · provide children with accurate, developmentally appropriate information (Derman-Sparks, 1990)
Children use their inquiries to help them sort out who they are, and how they are the same as and different from other people (Pulido-Tobiassen & Gonzalez-Mena, 1999). Taking an activist approach to teaching respect for diversity means that adults intentionally encourage
children to talk about their curiosity, rather than taking a passive, colorblind denial stance. A proactive color-filled celebration approach seeks to · enable children to develop ease with, and respect for, physical differences
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· help children become aware of the shared common physical characteristics that make everyone human beings · enable children to feel pride, but not superiority, about their racial identity · provide children with accurate, developmentally appropriate information (Derman-Sparks, 1990).
Tools to Support Children's Respect for Diversity In preschool classrooms, read-aloud children's literature that focuses on physical and racial diversity can stimulate exploration of differences in physical appearance. Good books are an engaging point of departure. They can be used as a springboard from which to launch conversation and further learning experiences
to support children as they notice, make sense of, and come to accept and celebrate the ways in which people are both different and alike. Children's books can be an important avenue for shaping how children perceive others who are different from themselves, as well as how they view themselves (Bainbridge, Panteleo, & Ellis, 1999; Lee & Johnson, 2000; Mendoza & Reese, 2001; Strasser, 2001). The books for young children presented here raise up for consideration, in a very active and direct way, human physical differences which are associated with race and/or geographical origin including hair color and texture, skin color, and facial structures. These books met the following criteria: · developmentally appropriate for reading to groups of 3- to 5-year-old children
Subjects & Predicates Good children's literature that is focused on physical and racial diversity can be used as a springboard from which to launch conversation and further learning experiences to support children as they notice, make sense of, and come to accept and celebrate the ways in which people are both different and alike.
· representative of racially diverse children · photography or illustrations that suggest children's individuality · text that supports respect for human differences Several other good books depict a variety of physical differences while at the same time carrying a strong message of human commonality. A few "centerpiece books" are highlighted here as excellent examples of the four categories of facial features, hair color and texture, skin color, and human commonalities. For each of these highlighted books, a variety of learning extensions are suggested. These explorations are intended to spur teachers' own ideas for building meaningful learning
opportunities based on the book's text and illustrations. Following these examples is an Annotated Bibliography
of additional high-quality books on this topic (Table 1). Facial Features Centerpiece book Intrater, R.G. (1995). Two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. New York: Scholastic. Illustrations by R.G. Intrater. This book begins, "Two eyes, a nose and a mouth, they're the first things that we see on millions and millions of faces, from Tibet to Tennessee" (p. 1). This visually delightful book goes on to describe facial features captured in close-up photographs of adults and
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Table 1. More good books about physical aspects of diversity
Adoff, Arnold. (1973). Black is brown is tan. New York: HarperCollins. Illustrations by Emily Arnold McCully. The poetic imagery of this classic book expresses the daily life of a mixed-race family: "This is the way it is for us, this is the way we are" (p. 3). Adoff speaks directly to a young child's concrete sensibilities... "i am white the milk is white i am not the color of the milk" (p. 11). Cisneros, Sandra. (1994). Hairs--Pelitos. New York: Knopf. Illustrations by Terry Ybanez. Ybanez' eye-catching illustrations employ large spaces of bold color in this simple bilingual book written in Spanish and English. The text and illustrations describe, from a young child's perspective, the diverse texture, color (and even smell) of family members
' hair (Mama's hair "is the warm smell of bread before you bake it"/"es el olor tibro a pan antes de hornearlo") (p. 7). Davol, Marguerite. (1993). Black, white, just right. New York: Whitman. Illustrations by Irene Trivas. In this upbeat book, a child describes the different appearances, habits, preferences, and interests of the members of her mixedrace family, noting at the end of each page that each is "just right." Fox, Mem. (1997). Whoever you are. New York: Harcourt, Brace. Illustrated by Leslie Staub. Richly colored, bold primitive-style oil painting
s depict children and families from around the world. Although the intense hues of the illustrations vary from page to page, the sky color is identical from picture to picture and place to place. This book carries the theme of how people are different yet basically the same, and reminds readers that "joy is the same and love is the same, pain is the same and blood is the same" (pp. 22-23). Hooks, Bell. (1999). Happy to be nappy. New York: Jump at the Sun/Hyperion. Illustrated by Chris Raschka. An ode to the versatility of nappy hair, Happy To Be Nappy is filled with simple watercolor renderings of girls in various shades of brown. The representations of hair are not meant to be realistic, but the artistic style in which they are created (strokes, squiggles, and curls of black over wet color wash) is intriguing. With a little adult guidance, children can try this experimental painting process. Raschka's hair strokes bleed out into the wet paper, creating fuzzy, nappy, interesting effects.
Hooks, Bell. (2004). Skin again. New York: Jump at the Sun/Hyperion. Illustrated by Chris Raschka. In bold cartoon illustrations, children of different colors are shown on the "outside" and then explored on the "inside." The message is that while skin is the wrapping, "if you want to know who I am, you've got to come inside" (p. 4). Kissinger, Katie. (1994). All the colors we are: The story of how we get our skin color/Todos los colores de nuetra piel. MN: Redleaf Press. Photographs by Werhner Krutein. Simple explanations (in both English and Spanish) of the three ways people get their skin color: From ancestors, the sun, and melanin in the skin. While the full explanation is beyond the grasp of most 3- to 5-year-olds, this book can help them begin to form a rudimentary understanding of the origins of skin color. Includes information for adults and developmentally appropriate learning experiences to accompany the book. Pinkney, Sandra. L. (2000). Shades of black: A celebration of our children. New York: Scholastic. Photographs by Myles C. Pinkney. "I am Black. I am unique" (p. 2). While all the children pictured and described in this book are considered to be black, they represent a very wide spectrum of shades of brown skin. Hair color, hair texture, and eye color are described in evocative and challenging language such as "the shimmering glow of ebony in an onyx" (p. 22). Subjects & Predicates Myles Pinkney's photography showcases individual children's spirits in uniquely beautiful and natural facial expressions. Pinkney, Sandra L. (2002). A rainbow all around me. New York: Scholastic. Photography by Myles C. Pinkney. With the exception of the repeated refrain ("Colors are you. Colors are me." [pp. 10, 18, 26]), the text of this book describes the bright colors of the rainbow. Myles Pinkney's compelling close-up photography, however, celebrates a wide diversity of children of different ethnic origins. The book closes with, "Colors colors they're in everything I see. We are in the rainbow--you and me!" (p. 32). Thomas, Pat. (2003). The skin I'm in: A first look at racism. New York: Barrons Education Series. Illustrated by Lesley Harker. Written by a counselor and psychotherapist, this book is designed to spark and encourage conversation--among families, children, and teachers-- about skin color and other observable racial differences.
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children of various racial and ethnic backgrounds. Readers are encouraged to "imagine how dull the world would be if everyone looked like you or me" (p. 15). extended learning
possibilities Aren't we beautiful! Take a closeup photograph (face only) of each child in the class. Encourage children to describe their own photographs, and with the help of a volunteer, write down the words children dictate. Post photos, names, and self-descriptions on a bulletin board or poster titled "Two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Aren't we beautiful!" This is a good beginning-of-the-year experience to help children learn one another's names, feel a part of the class, and celebrate their differences and commonalities. Feature graphing. Help children recognize the different eye shapes, eye colors, facial shapes, or other characteristics represented within the class. Create a wall graph to show how many children have blue eyes, green eyes, almond-shaped eyes, a heart-shaped or oval face, and other features. Use the graph to help children solve simple math problems, such as figuring out more than and fewer than: Are there more children in the class with blue eyes or with brown eyes? Are there more children in the class with brown eyes or with "not-brown" eyes? Baby faces. The video "Baby Mugs" (MVP, 1994) is a delightful celebration of babies and their many shapes and colors. This video has no words...only a soothing musical background and footage of individual babies mugging for the camera. Preschoolers are captivated by babies and baby faces, and will probably offer spontaneous comments about the babies they see. Viewing the video could be combined with the
"aren't we beautiful" ideas by having children bring in and self-describe their own baby pictures, which could be added to the bulletin board. Hair color and texture Centerpiece book Hamanaka, S. (1994). All the colors of the Earth. New York: Morrow. Illustrations by S. Hamanaka. Through verse and soft, lightfilled oil paintings, this book celebrates outward physical differences of hair color and texture and skin color, while suggesting the basic ways in which children everywhere are similar in needing and deserving love. "Children come in all the colors of love, in endless shades of you and me" (pp. 17-18). Extended learning possibilities Like silk, sunlight, and chestnuts. Hair is described in this book through comparison to elements of nature: Hair like flowing water, like curled sleeping cats, in colors of the late summer grasses and fallen leaves. On an outdoor walk or visit to a natural area, encourage children to look for things in nature that are similar to their hair. Upon return to the classroom, children record their discoveries with writing, drawing, collages, sculpture, and/or dictation. Class rainbow. Using a combination of multicultural and regular crayons, markers, or paints, encourage children to select or mix a color that matches their own hair color. Children can use their individually selected color to create a "stripe" on a class rainbow bulletin board. This could also be done for skin color. Combine this learning experience with the silk, sunlight, and chestnuts explorations by writing children's descriptions along the stripe of the rainbow, for example, "Marsha has
hair the color of chestnuts." "Carl has hair like autumn leaves." Grouping and sequencing. Challenge children to sort themselves in order from lightest to darkest hair (or vice-versa). Children can also be challenged to organize themselves into hair-type group
s: Curly, straight, wavy, long, medium-length, short, and other descriptors. If there is sufficient diversity, children may even be able to create simple "people patterns" such as: Straight, straight, curly. Straight, straight, curly. Intentionally encourage children to talk about their curiosity. Skin color Centerpiece book Katz, K. (1999). The colors of us. New York: Henry Holt. Illustrations by K. Katz. Lena's mom, an artist, is teaching her to mix colors. On a neighborhood walk, they notice the different shades of brown reflected in the skin of the friends they meet...cinnamon, ginger, peanut butter, chocolate, peach, honey, bronze, chili powder, coffee, toffee. Lena uses her newfound discoveries to create a collection of portraits done in "the colors of us." Extended learning possibilities "Me" puppets. Children create their own persona puppets by choosing from an array of craft materials. Using sturdy tag board or cardboard, adults can precut facial shapes or full-body "gingerbread person" forms. Children glue a form to a craft stick as a handle, select or mix multicultural paint colors
to color the skin of their puppets, and add hair.
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Possible materials to include in the "hair" selection are embroidery floss in various shades, curling ribbon, yarn, and string. Colorful chenille stems can be twisted into a wide variety of waves, curls, and kinks-- or used straight for spikes. Completed puppets can be used as props that children use to tell about themselves. Persona puppets can become part of a classroom puppetry center and provide an avenue for children to re-enact real-life classroom "dramas." With teacher support and guidance, this may lead to use of puppets as a problem-solving tool when facing conflict or challenging situations. "You" puppets. The same materials can be used to create puppets or portraits of friends or family members, perhaps to honor people or be given as gifts. Funny faces. Take a close-up black and white photograph of each child. Enlarge and print each photo on copy paper. Children can then color themselves using multicultural markers, crayons, or oil pastels. Try making multiple copies, so children can try out different colors on themselves...What would I look like with green eyes? Darker skin? Curly hair? At greater expense (but less use of paper), copy black and white photos onto transparencies. Human commonalities Centerpiece book Ajmera, M., & Ivanko, J.D. (1999). To be a kid. Durham, NC: SHAKTI for Children. Illustrations by various photographers. Through colorful photographs and simple text, To Be a Kid identifies many commonalities of childhood. To be a kid means...spending time with family, learning new things,
playing ball, sharing music, creating art, and acting silly. Each page shows photographs of children of various races, cultures, and nations engaged in the same basic activities. This book is an interesting example of the interdependence of text and illustrations: The message of diversity is carried through the photographs, while sameness is conveyed through words. For example, page 13, that carries the words, "To be a kid means playing ball," also shows photographs of children of diverse physical appearances in India, Cuba, Mexico, and Antigua and Barbuda, all engaged in different kinds of ball games in diverse neighborhood settings. Celebrate the ways in which people are both different and alike. The final two pages of the book provide further information about ways that basic elements of most children's lives (family, school, recreation and play, arts, animals, fun, and friends) are in some ways different from place to place, yet are essentially the same. Extended learning possibilities Alike AND Different. To Be a Kid differs from the other three books described, in that the essential theme of the text is not physical diversity. The diverse appearances of the children are, however, highlighted through the book's vibrant photography. A useful book that extends upon this theme of diversity within fundamental sameness is A Cool Drink of Water (Kerley, 2002), a photographic essay that shows
people of many cultures and races pouring, transporting, and enjoying drinking water. A series of photograph books by Morris about topics such as bread (1993a), hats (1993b), and shoes (1998) illustrate the many different ways people from around the world design and use common basics of life. These books can serve as a starting point for conversation with small groups of children. For example, a teacher might begin, "We are all wearing shoes. How are our shoes alike? How are they different?" Universal music. A wonderful CD to connect with the books described here is "The world sings goodnight" (Various artists, 1993). It is a collection of authentic lullabies from around the world, sung in native language
s by native voices and accompanied by native instruments. It is soothing music to play at nap or rest time. The concepts (around the world, people all sleep and have special songs for sleep time, and these songs each have their own special sound) can be explored at another time by asking children if there are songs their families sing to them at bedtime. "Like You and Me" is a recorded song appropriate for young children that emphasizes commonalities among children of various cultures (Raffi, 1985). The words introduce listeners to children's names with which they may be unfamiliar (Meja lives in Kenya. Pierre lives in France), and choruses that each child is "a very special son or daughter, a lot like you and me" (unpaged). After children are familiar with the music, create piggyback or zipper songs with them using children in the class as examples. Sing the song together, inserting children's
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names and their Country of Origin
, or insert children's names and a current street name, neighborhood name, or other words, and keep the chorus the same. Teachers could also insert a favorite activity named by each child, for example, "Carolee likes to dance, Sami likes to build." Young children focus on the concrete and observable. Bulletin board. As a group, create a poster list with children's suggestions of ways that class members look alike (for example, we all have hair [if this is true], we all have eyes, we are all smaller than grown-ups). The next day, add a list of children's suggestions of ways they differ from one another (different eye colors, skin colors, height, and other attributes). On a third day, list other ways children are the same (we all like to play, we all sleep, we all eat, we all have ideas). On days four and five, create a bulletin board with children. Show how the children in the class fall into selected areas of difference (for example, hair color, skin color, eye color, or gender). Around the border of the bulletin board, post children's decorated or illustrated statements of commonality. Beyond These Books The books described in this article directly lend themselves to addressing young children's interest and curiosity about physical differences due to race and/or geographical original. These books represent only one type of literature that early childhood teachers can use to help children to be accepting of and comfortable with diversity. Education for diversity can and should also include high-quality multicultural books that tell good stories,
and that illustrate and celebrate (but do not necessarily take as a central focus) human physical differences and similarities. As children grow through the early childhood years, they become increasingly aware of less directly observable differences and similarities among people: culture, abilities, personality, and other differences. They begin to develop awareness of and curiosity about increasingly subtle attributes such as economic differences, diversity in family composition, and how families live (PulidoTobiassen & Gonzalez-Mena, 1999). Provide children with literature and other learning materials
(such as puzzles, puppets, dolls, pretend play props) that help them explore how others speak, eat, dress, play, work, and carry out family roles. These items help children become more aware of the cultural differences and similarities that reflect people's ethnic identities, and encourage children to move beyond noticing the physical dimensions of how people look, to consider the ways people think, act, and live. Books that highlight physical differences such as skin color, facial appearance, and hair color--and learning experiences that extend those observations--are an important and developmentally relevant early step toward exploring more complex social studies
concepts and attitudes related to race, ethnicity, culture, and diversity. References Ajmera, M., & Ivanko, J.D. (1999). To be a kid. Durham, NC: SHAKTI for Children. Bainbridge, J.M., Panteleo, S., & Ellis, M. (1999). Multicultural picture books: Perspectives from Canada. Social Studies, 90(4), 183-188. Damon, W., & Hart, D. (1988). Selfunderstanding in childhood and adolescence. New York: Cambridge University
Derman-Sparks, L., and the A.B.C. Task Force (1990). The antibias curriculum: Tools for empowering young children. Washington, DC
: National Association for the Education of Young Children. Fry, P.G. (1994). Expanding multicultural curriculum: Helping children discover cultural similarities. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 6(3), 12-15. Hamanaka, S. (1994). All the colors of the earth. New York: Morrow. Intrater, R.G. (1995). Two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. New York: Scholastic. Katz, K. (1999). The colors of us. New York: Henry Holt. Kerley, B. (2002). A cool drink of water. Washington, DC: National Geographic. Lee, G.L., & Johnson, W. (2000). The need for interracial storybooks in effective multicultural classrooms. Multicultural Education, 8(2), 27-29. Mendoza, J., & Reese, D. (2001). Examining multicultural picture books for the early childhood classroom: Possibilities and pitfalls/Una inspeccion de libros ilustrados multiculturales para los programas de la ninez temprana: posibilidades y peligros. Early Childhood Research and Practice, 3(2), unpaged. Morris, A. (1993a). Bread, bread, bread. New York: Harper Trophy. Morris, A. (1993b). Hats, hats, hats. New York Harper Trophy. Morris, A. (1998). Shoes, shoes, shoes. New York: Harper Trophy. MVP (1994). Baby mugs. Chatsworth, CA: MVP Home Entertainment. Pulido-Tobiassen, D., & Gonzalez-Mena, J. (1999). A place to begin: Working with parents on issues of diversity. Oakland, CA: California Tomorrow. Raffi. (1985). "Just like you and me." On One Light/One Sun. Vancouver, BC: Troubadour Records. Strasser, J.K. (2001). Beautiful me! Celebrating diversity through literature and art. Childhood Education, 77(2), 76-80. Various Artists (1993). The world sings goodnight. Boulder, CO: Silver Wave Records. Wardle, F. (1992). Supporting biracial children in the school setting. Education and Treatment of Children, 15(2), 163-172. Wham, M.A., Barnhardt, J.E., & Cook, G.L. (1996). Enhancing multicultural awareness through the storybook reading experience. Journal of research and development
in Education, 30(1), 1-9.
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Put These Ideas Into Practice! Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes, Cornrows, and Curls: Building on Books to Explore Physical Diversity With Preschool Children Kristen M. Kemple and Maria Lopez
Prompt conversation among teachers Use the article's three opening vignettes as conversation starters. Discussion leaders may ask questions such as these: · Why might children say these things? · What comments have you overheard children make regarding physical diversity? · How have these comments made you feel? What have these comments made you think? · How can situations such as these be used as opportunities for learning about, and developing positive attitudes toward, human diversity? Extend children's learning Study nature Many elements in nature are both alike and different--not just humans! How can adults encourage children to consider the concept of differences within commonality? For example, examine and discuss the similarities and differences among rocks, leaves, and flowers. The possibilities are endless! Explore the visual arts Art supplies--paint, paper, crayons, modeling compound--are available in natural tones of human hair and skin. Children can celebrate the human rainbow in drawings, paintings, sculpture, and collage. Toddlers' art will be primarily expressive as they mix colors and compare and contrast hues. Older children's explorations may be representational, such as puppets or self-portraits.
Study children's books A Rainbow All Around Me All the Colors of the Earth All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color Black Is Brown Is Tan Black, White, Just Right Hairs--Pelitos Happy to Be Nappy Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children Skin Again The Colors of Us The Skin I'm In: A First Look at Racism To Be a Kid Two Eyes, a Nose, and a Mouth Whoever You Are · Brainstorm ways to use these and similar books as discussion starters with teachers and children. · With colleagues, explore how these books can be used to make connections to other areas of the curriculum including art, music, and science.
Note: Dimensions of Early Childhood readers are encouraged to copy this material for early childhood students as well as teachers of young children as a professional development
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