Young Children’s Curiosity About Physical Differences Associated with Race: Shared Reading to Encourage Conversation

Abstract

Many have called for re-examination of the “colorblind” philosophy to which some early educators have, tacitly or explicitly, adhered (e.g. Boutte et al. 2011; Derman-Sparks and Edwards 2010; Husband 2012). It has been argued that, while colorblind approaches may appear to be politically neutral, they actually exacerbate racial oppression. In this article, we advocate for a direct and active approach to raising conversations about race with younger preschool children. Based on the developmental nature of young children’s concepts of self and of other, our focus is on initiating discussions about concrete and observable physical aspects of human diversity associated with race. Young children notice and are curious about differences in skin color, hair texture, and facial features. Because these differences are salient, are accessible, and are of interest to young children they can serve as an effective starting point. We suggest shared reading of high quality illustrated children’s books, incorporating the principles of dialogic reading, as a potent springboard for discussions about race with very young children. Our purpose is to equip children, very early in their schooling, with a color-filled appreciation for and comfort with physical diversity of appearance. On that foundation, children may better proceed on the course of developing anti-racist attitudes.

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Correspondence to Kristen M. Kemple.

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Kemple, K.M., Lee, I.R. & Harris, M. Young Children’s Curiosity About Physical Differences Associated with Race: Shared Reading to Encourage Conversation. Early Childhood Educ J 44, 97–105 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-014-0683-0

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Keywords

  • Diversity
  • Shared reading
  • Anti-bias
  • Anti-racist
  • Preschool