Today on the blog I am welcoming Charnaie Gordon from Here Wee Read. She’s dropping some knowledge about diversity, books and instilling confidence in your children.
From the time I was a child, growing up in a homogeneous neighborhood in Connecticut, I was always intrigued by “the other.” I wanted to know more about the upper working-class, whose vibrant way of life I witnessed every week when parents dropped off their kids at school.
In my neighborhood, grown-ups would be out on the sidewalk drinking beer, while kids were playing double Dutch, “kick the can” or listening to radios on full blast.
In the back of my mind I would always wonder what “other” children witnessed in their neighborhoods compared to mine.
“Other” meaning children who were of a different race or culture than mine.
I turned to books to help me understand more about other cultures, races, and classes. I was curious about the types of foods they ate, what kind of jobs they had and how they lived their day-to-day lives. This burning curiosity I’ve had with learning about diversity still hasn’t subsided even in my adult years.
Each time I can learn about a different culture I feel so enriched and enlarged.
Now that I’m raising two kids to be future adults in a world of diversity, it’s important for me to allow them to have opportunities to be around others who are different from them on a regular basis. I want them to understand that people are people – regardless of differences.
At the same time, I want to teach them to be accepting and kind while they explore their curiosity just like I did at a young age.
So how can you instill confidence in your child when they don’t look like you? And why is diversity and representation so important?
One of the easiest and best ways to instill confidence in your child (regardless of race) is through books.
Books can help you have conversations about race, diversity, self-esteem, having pride in your culture/heritage, and so much more. One of the most important things parents raising children can do is to fully acknowledge race and color instead of acting like color doesn’t exist.
Unfortunately, racism is still very much alive today so having open conversations with children about race early on will help you to instill confidence in your child. It helps them to easily be accepting of others different from them.
I like to provide my children with enriching reading experiences that showcase a full spectrum of diverse and inclusive books. Reading books that serve as mirrors with characters that look like them reflected on the pages back at them, helps confirm their existence and their potential.
Reading books that serve as windows with characters that are different from them, helps provide a glimpse into other people’s lives.
When searching for books I’m mindful to choose books which include children with differences (whether it’s hair texture or skin color, glasses, special needs, etc.).
Having diversity in literature is important because it helps people become more compassionate towards others and allows them to help push the lever toward true equality.
Diversity can allow us to see beyond the superficial outward differences and look deeper for common interests, similar likes/dislikes, values, beliefs, and attitudes.
It opens a myriad of options and spaces to discuss any and all ideas we might have. Being able to empathize and sympathize with diverse characters means that we as people are more open to understanding others in general. It is a crucial aspect to promote, more so in the time and place we live in today.
We all have a story to tell.
Instilling confidence in your child shows them that they can achieve anything regardless of their differences.
Simply put, a lack of diversity can hinder a child’s ambitions and aspirations of the underrepresented while they are still young and their minds are impressionable. I want my children to know that excellence can look like them, too!
Even something as seemingly small as a similar hairstyle can reaffirm the way people see themselves — and encourage them to value have confidence in their uniqueness.
Just ask little August, a pre-K student in Sugarland, Texas at Lakeview Elementary School. Her teacher, Leigh Bishop, recently wore the same exact hairstyle as hers to school after complementing her on how much she liked her hair. This is just one example of how to remind children how special, unique and important they are.
The main thing for parents to remember (especially those raising children who look different from them) is to choose books, toys, games or other products with intent and purpose.
Want to learn more about Charnaie?
She is a wife, mom of two, computer programmer by day, blogger/influencer by night, self-proclaimed lifelong learner, podcast junkie and Distinguished Toastmaster. Her blog, Here Wee Read, is where she is currently expressing her creativity and passion for reading, diverse literature, and literacy. Charnaie also is a contributing writer for Brightly and Laila Ali’s Lifestyle Blog.
You can join Charnaie’s online reading academy before it fully launches in the coming months! Members of her group receive access to use brand partner discounts to use on products geared towards parents raising children of color, access to attend her online author/illustrator chats, and access to her private Facebook community of like-minded people all passionate about diversity and inclusion.