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Talking With Children About Race and Social Justice
June 2, 2020
We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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This Saturday, in response to the death of George Floyd and the ensuing events, the National Association for the Education of Young Children sent an email on behalf of the incoming president, Ann McClain Terrell, and Chief Executive Officer, Rhian Evans Allvin. Here is an excerpt from their statement:

“NAEYC’s core values uphold the dignity and worth of each individual. As we identify in our Advancing Equity in Early Childhood Education position statement, our goal is to nurture a more diverse and inclusive generation of young children who thrive through their experience of equitable learning opportunities in early learning programs. We aim for each child to ‘express comfort and joy with human diversity; to increasingly recognize injustice; and to have the will and the skills to act against prejudice.’ We find ourselves pressing for the same for each adult in our nation today.”

John Nimmo, one of the authors of the book, Leading Anti-Bias Early Childhood Programs: A Guide for Change, and a Dimensions Foundation Board of Directors member (Dimensions is the parent organization for Exchange), offers these words of wisdom to the early childhood community:

“Now is not the time to be silent.

Now is the time to listen carefully to the meaning children are giving to the events around. Young children are seeing and hearing the justifiable anger of people across this nation. Yes, limit children’s exposure to media that is not designed for them, but accept that they have the right and capacity to understand the reality of racism in our country.

Now is the time to respond to their questions and observations with authenticity. Find the language and words that are developmentally meaningful for your children, but don’t shy away from using words that children are seeking to understand like protest, police brutality, and White supremacy.

While we need to reassure children about their world, it is okay to express that you don’t know everything and that you want to learn more. Reflect visibly on your own social identities and values and their relationship to race and racism. As a White parent and teacher, I accept responsibility to not only be aware of who I am, but to also model the everyday and concrete ways I can confront my privilege and be an ally for social justice.

We can reassure our children that good people can feel angry and frustrated, while also emphasizing values of care, kindness and community. I need to be careful not to confuse ‘safety’ with the White privilege to not talk about racism. Attend to your child’s protection from the trauma that is racism.”

And finally, in the book, You Can’t Celebrate That: Navigating the Deep Waters of Social Justice Teaching, teacher and author Nadia Jaboneta reminds us: “I see firsthand how racism infuses all of our lives, White people and people of color, children and adults…I’ve begun to listen for opportunities to take up the conversation about race and religion with the children as a way to plant the seeds for a more just society.”





You Can’t Celebrate That!
Navigating the Deep Waters of Social Justice Teaching

Use coupon code COURAGE
to save 25% on You Can't Celebrate That!

Find inspiration in this compelling story of an educator's social justice journey as she partners with families to explore racial identity, religious celebrations, and racism in response to a biased comment by one child to another in her diverse preschool class.

You Can't Celebrate That! is part of the Reimagining Our Work (ROW) collection. Use the ROW collection to discover how early childhood educators in the field are reimagining their work and thinking alongside children.

Use code COURAGE when prompted.

Offer valid through June 3, 2020 at 11:59 pm Pacific Time.
May not be combined with any other offer.

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Comments (2)

Displaying All 2 Comments
Sarker Javed Iqbal · June 02, 2020
Self employed
Dhaka, Bangladesh


Sounds very much convincing and assuring. But, my racist mind may flare up in real situation when my racial identity is questioned and humiliated and if I fail to build up and nurture humanitarian values in me. Only then it is possible to promote humanitarian values among our future generations. I am hopeful of establishing a just society worldwide free from all kinds of hates and injustice in real meaning.

Marlene Black · June 02, 2020
Brown Deer, WI, United States


I love reading the article relating to our children social and emotional skills, I recommend exchange to Early Childhood Educators.



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