The holidays provide a wonderful opportunity for parents to celebrate and teach children about diversity. Since your child's classmates may have different customs than those you and your children practice, it allows you to talk about traditions and culture. Your child can ask questions about the celebrations of others, as well as their own holiday traditions. From what meals are served at the holiday table to gift giving practices, celebrate diversity with your child during the holidays to provide them with a deeper appreciation for all practices and beliefs. This is the perfect time to reassert that difference is not only OK but beautiful!
Race is a concept that minority children cannot avoid; simply becoming aware that they do not look like their favorite television characters will inevitably make a child wonder why they look different. This can spark a conversation and awareness on the part of parents of minority children regarding diversity and make the topic unavoidable. White children and their parents, however, do not have this blatant “opening” and so oftentimes it is never addressed. Furthermore, white parents may simply think that topics such as diversity, race or multiculturalism are not even relevant to them.
It is obvious the power publishers have in deciding what content, and whether diverse content, makes it to the marketplace. However, librarians, parents, grandparents, book store owners and teachers are also gatekeepers. Librarians can decide where to direct visitors, parents can choose to purchase books with multicultural characters and teachers can expose their students to ethnically and culturally diverse material. Each of these roles either perpetuates the lack of diversity in children's literature or transcends it by promoting a variety of books that celebrate diversity.
The 2014-2015 school year was the first time that non-white students outnumbered white students and the likelihood that the next person you meet will be of a different race or ethnicity stands at 55% (USA Today Diversity Index). That is set to increase to 71% by 2060 according to the same study, meaning the next generation, will have more than a 7 in 10 chance of encountering a different race or ethnic group.
We all know that understanding differences starts at home, but the discrepancies aren’t always represented or apparent under our roofs. Relevant literature indicates that children are aware of differences in other kids based on gender or race as young as two years old. As an example, racial awareness begins with self as a toddler to exploring individual identity and being able to identify stereotypes by five or six years of age.