Emily, Purl’s Administrative Assistant is a transracial adoptee as well as studying to become certified in teaching. She is learning about the importance of teaching diversity to children at a young age. Today, she shares some of her favorite books that can be used as a tool to introduce children to concepts of diversity. 

As a transracial adoptee and a college student majoring in Early Childhood Education and Special Ed., I cannot stress the importance of understanding and accepting the differences of others enough. In class for the past few weeks, we have been learning the best ways to teach this in classrooms, and even how to encourage these kinds of conversations at home. It’s important that children first understand the meaning of the word ‘respect’ and how they can use this toward others and allow them to set boundaries of their own that they want others to respect.

There are SO many books that can help introduce children to diversity within themselves as individuals, families, and even different cultures. Here’s a few of my favorites:

  • Don’t Touch my Hair! – Sharee Miller: This book is in the perspective of Aria, a young girl with big, bouncy, curly hair. People are constantly asking her if they can feel her hair because she has different hair than them and she hates it! She wishes people would respect her boundaries. Children notice differences between their own hair and the hair of others at a very young age, so it’s important to discuss these differences and let them know that these things make us unique and being unique is okay.

  • Families, Families, Families! – Suzanne Lang: This book discusses the different ways that families come together. It is great for young children, and has fun, engaging illustrations. It even includes families who came together through adoption. This is a very short book with few words. It talks about all the different types of families there are, for example: two dads/moms, children who live with their grandparents, children who were adopted, etc., and talks about how if you love someone, they are your family; it doesn’t matter how you came together. I believe this is a perfect book for young children because it shows these families in animal form and has fun interactive pictures – and it rhymes!

  • I Color Myself Different – Colin Kaepernick: This book is written by former NFL Player Colin Kaepernick, who is also a transracial adoptee. He discusses his experience in school when he had to draw and color the members of his family. He used a brown crayon to color himself, but not the rest of his family, and he received questions about why he did this. It’s a great book to introduce the ideas of transracial adoption.

  • The Bronze Dog / Qing Tong Gou: A story in English and Chinese – Jian Li: This book is in both English and Chinese and tells the story of two brothers and a magical dog. In China, dogs were bred as guardians, and symbolized as good luck. This is a multicultural great story for children because it includes amazing illustrations and tells this story in two languages.

I believe it is so beneficial to teach children about who they are and where they come from starting at a young age. My parents had little information about my birth family when my adoption was finalized, but they were always upfront and honest with me about how I came to join their family. This is something I’ve always appreciated, and books are such a great way to introduce concepts like diversity, individuality, culture and even adoption. As a kid, I would love to read books about adoption because I thought it was so cool that the child in the book was adopted too! These kinds of discussions and interactions with my parents have helped me to become comfortable in my own skin and has given me the opportunity to better understand the things that make us different from one another. This is something I am so excited to implement in my own classroom, as it’s so important to cover the different faces, identities and cultures that make up not only our classrooms, but also our homes and in the world.

I would also like to suggest doing some research on your local library and the different things they offer for children. They might have a kid’s corner or section that is specifically designed for young children, where they can go and explore the different activities, books, etc. My local library has activities on different days for parents to participate in with their children. It might be something that’s worth checking out!

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