Building a Home
Martin Luther King
On Martin Luther King Day, I see a lot of school activities that honor the
themes of racial understanding and tolerance. But I don't see a lot of ideas
for what parents can do in their homes. It would be nice to foster
multiculturalism throughout the year with my young children. What's an easy way
to do that?
Martin Luther King Day is a great time to make your home
library multicultural. Why don't you purchase a book every year on this date,
with your child? Children are so tangible - they get candy for Easter,
fireworks for the Fourth of July, presents for Christmas . . . why not help
them anticipate and appreciate this day of celebrating racial reconciliation by
presenting them with a book each year?
If you want to raise a child who's as free from prejudice as
possible, it's a great idea to go out of your way to have books in your home
that show people of all skin colors doing good things, and books by
multicultural authors with their photos on the book jackets. You shouldn't harp
on it, but make sure you're presenting that truth about human beings in a
nonverbal way. That way, your child will learn a little about other people whose
skin may be a little different color, but who are very interesting and loveable
all the same - since we are, on balance, all the same.
If finances are a problem, you
should be able to check out these books at a public library, or send a note to
your child's school librarian to see if these could be sent home for an evening
of multicultural appreciation.
If young children associate snuggling with Mom or Dad with
books, and associate brown or black faces pictured in those books with warm,
happy times reading, it gives them a great start at getting along with other
people, even years and decades later.
You can teach a little basic
history, and prevent bias and stereotypes in your child before they get a
chance to get implanted. Some of these stories don't directly have anything to
do with race, but quietly emphasize common ground, and introduce the themes of
friendship and acceptance, which are keys for all ages.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Bill Martin Jr.
The "climax" at the end shows a warm
and nurturing brown-faced woman that sends a quiet message to Caucasian
A Chair For My Mother
Vera B. Williams
African-Americans Rosa and her
grandmother save their loose change so that Rosa's mother can have a chair to
sink into after a hard day at her waitressing job.
The Snowy Day
Ezra Jack Keats
This sweet, gentle book shows an
African-American child having fun on a snowy day. Look for other picture books
by Keats, who was the first to break the color line with mainstream children's
books featuring nonwhite main characters.
Pink and Say
This story of one black and one
white boy soldiers for the Union during the Civil War says a lot about
friendship and racial understanding, but it does have a sad ending, so isn't
recommended for children younger than Grade 4.
Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth
Anne Rockwell and R. Gregory Christie
Striking illustrations bring the story to life about a tall,
brave, black woman back before the Civil War, who had a dream one night, that
she was supposed to go around the country and tell everyone what it was like to
have been a slave. She did, and influenced the course of American history as
people paid attention and fought the Civil War to free the slaves.
Little Blue and Little Yellow
Two blobs of color demonstrate the
beauty of friendship that transcends surface differences. While this book
doesn't directly illustrate skin color differences, the principle is powerfully
Homework: Here are more suggested books for
infants and toddlers, many with African-American characters in them, from the
Oakland, Calif., public library:
are some listed by a reference website on black heritage issues: