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Celebrating So Everyone Feels Included
December 6, 2021
It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.
-Maya Angelou
When teacher and author Nadia Jaboneta was confronted with an unexpected conversation between two students in her early childhood classroom, she used it as an opportunity to explore new thinking about families and celebrations. Eventually, her explorations turned into a book she hoped would support other educators on a similar journey. Here’s an excerpt from that book, You Can’t Celebrate That! Navigating the Deep Waters of Social Justice Teachingwhere she explains what prompted her thoughtful journey:

“I was eating lunch with the four-and-five-year-old children in my preschool class when Harry, a mixed-race child, began to tell us of his plans: ‘I’m so excited for tonight. I’m going to celebrate Shana Tova’ (his name for the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah). ‘I’m going to eat apples and honey and my mom is going to read me my books about the celebration.’ His excitement was contagious. Children asked him questions about the holiday, and Harry had detailed answers. I noticed Kiley, a White child, looking at Harry for a long moment during the energetic conversation before she said firmly, ‘You can’t celebrate that! Only people with white skin can celebrate that! That’s what my Dad said.’”

Nadia’s reaction was very human. “My heart stopped,” she wrote. “I care deeply about addressing bias. I want children to know how valuable their differences are – to know that differences are what make us beautiful and unique humans. I knew I had to say something, do something. But what? What could I offer that would ease the tension, support both Kiley and Harry, and get us out of this deep water?” What followed that important and brave question was a series of phone calls and meetings, all held in a supportive and loving way, as the experiences that Nadia eventually turned into a book took shape.

Her encouragement for fellow educators is to do as she’s decided: “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 40% 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 December 7, 2021, at 11:59 pm Pacific Time.
Discount limited to 10 per person. May not be combined with any other offer.


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Comments (3)

Displaying All 3 Comments
Tiffany Peckham · December 08, 2021
Lincoln, NE, United States

Francis, thank you for sharing your personal experience with us.

Missy, yes! I'm glad you are thinking about using the book within your book study. Please let me know if you need any help.

-Tiffany at Exchange Press

Missy Brown · December 06, 2021
CCR&R at John A Logan College
Carterville, IL, United States

I am almost done reading this book and I think it is a wonderful story that could be shared book study style with anyone. I am thinking of using it as a book study with my staff at the CCR&R.

Francis Wardle · December 06, 2021
Center for the Study of Biracial Children
Denver, Colorado, United States

Its interesting that in this case it was the children who were confused about issues of identity. As the father of 4 multiracial children, I have had several experiences with teachers and administrators who didn't understand the richness and complexity of identity. Of course, before 2010, schools were required to use a demographic form that did not allow mixed-race children to "select more than one" racial identity, which certainly confused the teachers. One of my children's teachers told my young daughter that her mother could not be both Black and First American. And I know many teachers who insist that multiracial children are Black. Maybe we need to first check our own biases?

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