We have the opportunity every day to work with young children--filled to the brim with love and curiosity. There inevitably comes a time when we have to talk with them about intensely difficult topics--racism, inequality, and inclusion among the toughest. Whether race was already an active conversation in your family, you’re starting, or you’re feeling overwhelmed, I’m reaching out to support you, communicate what we’re working on, and offer some guidance and resources to help you continue to build a foundation for these conversations with your children.
In the longer term, we are working with our entire team to continue to strengthen our curriculum through the lens of kindness, empathy and respect. These are topics we have always taken seriously at Vivvi, and will continue to do so. In the shorter term, I am sharing some recommendations for books and dialogue. The list is intentionally short, not for a lack of resources out there, but to help you focus and remind you that practicing small intentional actions make the biggest difference for young children.
The crisis emerging from racism and injustice in our country is unfolding in real time, and each family’s perspective and approach is unique. At Vivvi, we believe this is a time when we all need to stand up and turn our sadness and feelings of helplessness into actions. We are committed to an anti racist world where black lives matter, no one fears for their safety and no one is denied the rights every person deserves. I write this to you knowing that I don’t have all of the answers, and that Vivvi cannot aim to be your only resource, but also to reassure you that we are here with you, and that we will always offer you, your children and our community our very best efforts. I wish we were together in person, but if you want to have a deeper conversation about what we’re doing for our team and as a company, or your family’s experience, please reach out to me to schedule time to talk.
Here are a few things that I hope help ground you in what you can do right now that are intentional, impactful and developmentally appropriate:
Try to separate your adult experience from your child’s. This means limiting your child’s exposure to news media and adult conversations as much as possible. I give this advice knowing that it may feel different from your instincts given the many messages you’ve read in the last few days to initiate these conversations. That isn’t to say these aren’t important topics to address with your family -- quite the opposite, in fact -- but rather to suggest a strategy to unpack your own feelings first in order to better serve your children, especially knowing how very young they are.
Consistently remind your child that they are loved and safe.
Model kindness. This can feel more limited right now when we are interacting with so few people, but your children are watching the smallest gestures. My thoughts on practicing kindness talks about this more in depth, and it remains a vital part of raising tolerant human beings.
When you feel ready, continue reinforcing larger themes purposefully and gradually over time. This can be through adding books to your library from the below list, and activating dialogue with your child. We think the following resources do a good job going deeper on our advice here.
How to Talk to Kids About Race - helps highlight the work parents can do to unpack their own biases first, and be ready to engage with childrens’ questions.
The NYT Parenting Newsletter (today’s edition) is a good ongoing resource that we trust
Talking Race with Young Children (NPR) - an interview that relays varied examples of families’ real experiences talking about race.
Books are a vital part of our curriculum and one of our most useful tools for teaching tolerance and diversity. They are also a wonderful starting point for beginning conversations with your child. To introduce a child to a book we often do what we call “picture walks.” Picture walks are also a way to start to bring up more challenging topics. If this sounds different from how you would normally read with your child, practice a picture walk with a book your family reads regularly, or pick a book your child is already fond of.
As you explore the list of books below, here are a few starter questions you may want to ask, either during your picture walk or throughout the reading:
What do you notice in this picture? What do you think this might be about?
I can see that [action/emotion is happening], what do you think?
Look at that picture, to me the people in that picture look [emotion], what do you think?
What do you think will happen next?
I noticed in this book that some people feel like they’re not being treated with kindness, but you know how to be kind, like when you [example].
Remember to distinguish between real and pretend. Young children have rich creative minds--you can help calm them by reminding them of what is real and what is pretend, and reminding them that they are safe.
The following books are a starting point from our own library, linked to local owned bookstores.
Diversity and Inclusion
Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy
Just Like Me by Vanessa Newton
Octopus Stew by Eric Velasquez
The Old Truck by Jerome Pumphrey
The Big Red Umbrella by Gussie Levine
Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev
It's Okay To Be Different by Todd Parr
The Peace Book by Todd Parr
Shades of People by Shelley Rotner
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
We're Different We're The Same by Bobbi Kates
All Kinds of Children by Norma Simon
Have You Filled a Bucket Today by Carol McCloud
Tomorrow I Will Be Kind by Jessica Hische
Somewhere In the World Right by Stacey Schuett
I Like To Play by Marla Stewart Konrad
If Kids Ran The World by Leo & Diane Dillon
Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley
Bread, Bread, Bread by Ann Morris
Shoes, Shoes, Shoes by Ann Morris
Hats, Hats, Hats by Ann Morris