It’s no secret the year 2020 has been the year of all years. There is so much heartbreak in our world right now. I think we can all agree that a lot needs to change and it is overwhelming.
The moms at Birmingham Mom Collective want to see an end to racism. We want to see lasting change in our city and our country — change that values all humans, gives dignity to all people, and celebrates the beauty in our diverse city. Birmingham has a history deep in racism, unfortunately. While we cannot change history, we can change our future and it starts with the present — in our very homes. Our living rooms, our dinner tables, and our backyards are places where the change can begin. We can start by teaching the next generation.
Birmingham Mom Collective has collaborated to bring you resources to teach your children to celebrate diversity and pursue equality with everyone. Contributors Emily, Katie, and Brittany worked together on this list. We hope these resources are not just helpful, but also unique ideas that you may have not seen elsewhere. It is important to us that we provide you with resources that have been used by us either with our own children or with children in our professional lives as teachers and counselors.
Books that Address Human Rights
These books are ideal for the older elementary crowd, but they can also be used as read-alouds for younger children.
- Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
This book was used to primarily teach the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We learn about a little girl whose life was changed when they were forced to leave their home and become migrant workers. There isn’t just talk about how badly Hispanics were treated during this time, but it also shows the main character changing her views about social classes throughout the novel.
- Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America by Sharon Robinson
Jackie’s story should capture the attention of a sports fanatic! It’s eye opening to read about what he experienced, and open discussions on racial injustice are easier with such a beloved topic as sports.
- My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Christine King Farris
In this book, we can see MLK, Jr. as a child and what he experienced growing up. Most of us know King as an adult, but getting a glimpse of his childhood helps us understand what shaped him as an adult.
- Dark Water Rising by Marian Hale
This is an incredible story of the Galveston Hurricane that destroyed the island in the early 1900s. In it, though, the lead character Seth becomes friends with an African American boy named Eszra and they venture through racial injustice of that time. Injustice isn’t the main theme of this book, but kids will discover this theme anyway. They will pick it apart and devour this book!
Books with Themes of Injustice
- Rain School by James Rumfordz is set in rural Africa.
- Nasreen’s Secret School by Jeanette Winter is set in Afghanistan.
- The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter is set in Iraq.
- Waiting for Biblioburro by Monica Brown is set in Mexico.
- That Book Woman by Heather Henson is set in the Appalachian Mountains, featuring a poor family.
- Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco is about a character with dyslexia.
- The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter is about a Jewish character. There is another great book, The Word Collector, with the same themes that features a boy who is African American.
- My Librarian is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children around the World by Margriet Ruurs includes several chapters focusing on children across the world.
Books on Diversity
Exposing children to images and art that reflect a variety of races, ethnicities, and cultures can be just as important as books that directly address race. Here are a few books with beautiful pictures that can bring diversity to children’s book collections.
- Who Put the Cookie in the Cookie Jar? by George Shannon
Watch the book here.
- Trombone Shorty by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews
Watch the book here.
- We’ve Got The Whole World In Our Hands by Rafael López
Watch the book here.
God’s Very Good Idea by Trillia NewbellThis book has beautiful illustrations and teaches children to celebrate the beauty in God’s good idea to create billions of different people in His own image to be a reflection of His love.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack KeatsThis precious book is about a boy who spends his day in the snow. There is nothing about it that directly teaches diversity, but the characters are people of color. The story is a heart-warming and hopeful tale of the simple joy of playing in the snow.
Books with Activities
Katie did these activities with her son. The links provided take you to YouTube videos of the books, so you can just watch the video before doing the activity!
Diverse Paper Dolls
- The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
My three year old has rarely verbalized noticing variations in skin colors, but I knew it was time to begin being more direct about the importance of acknowledging differences. I explained how all people have different shades of skin, which is what makes people so beautiful. Using our crayon box, we identified all different colors people can be and I gave him language to talk about this. We made a chain of paper dolls and my son picked out different colors to represent his different friends. Seeing him color these sweet friends holding hands is an image I know I’ll hold for a long time.
Flags of the World
- Whoever You Are by Mom Fox
I want to teach the lesson that people all around the world may look different and live different than we do but that some things remain the same (love, laughter, joy, beauty). I let my child pick out flags, and together we cut and glued them together to make a banner. Then we googled these countries to learn more about their culture, their geography, and their traditions.
- I am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer
Noticing and appreciating differences is not enough. I want to teach my child to speak up when injustice occurs. We talked about the meaning of protest: when there are rules in place or actions being taken that hurt people, especially because of their color, we speak up and say this isn’t okay. Together, we drew protest signs that we placed in our yard and other appropriate locations.
Teaching through Art
- How Black Art Can Spark Conversations with Children from PBS
- If you want to get into the art of color and science of skin tone, we recommend this resource and this one for teaching kids to see the beauty in the color of our skin tones.
Videos and Songs
- The Bible Project: What is Justice? This video produced by The Bible Project explains what justice is in a kid-friendly way that teaches why it is important to stand for justice.
- Toby Mac’s “Bleed the Same” Toby Mac joins with Mandisa and Kirk Franklin to sing this song of unity.
- Shai Linne’s “God Made Me and You” This song is catchy, fun, and teaches why we should celebrate the differences in each other. You can also buy this song in book form here.
All fearfully and wonderfully made
Through each, the glory of God displayed
God made me and you”
Resources for Parents
Hey, it’s not just the kids that need to learn! Sometimes we as parents need to know where and how to start the conversation with our kids.
- Raising White Kids by Jennifer Harvey
- How to Use Children’s Books to Talk About Race and Racism from PBS
- How Should Parents Speak to Their Children About the News? This is a video with Trillia Newbell, the author of a book listed above, God’s Very Good Idea.
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man Emmanuel Acho hosts these short clips. In this particular episode, Emmanuel talks with Chip and Joanna Gaines and their children. He explains why it is important to see each other’s color, instead of teaching our kids colorblindness.