Have you ever wondered why we need a special month to celebrate Hispanic heritage? Shouldn’t we celebrate the diversity of children each and every month? Teachers are uniquely positioned to guide young children to appreciate the differences that make each of us special and it’s never too early to celebrate and teach children about diversity.
Children notice differences between people at about age two. Two year olds notice gender and racial differences, at about 2 ½ years children learn gender labels (boy/girl) and the name of colors which they begin to apply to skin color. At around 3 years of age children notice physical disabilities and at about 4-5 years of age they start to display gender appropriate behavior and become fearful of differences.
So start diversity lessons early. Talk to children about the concepts of “same” and “different.” Explain that everyone has some things in common, but that no one is exactly the same as anyone else. We’re all the same AND different. Point out similarities between the children in your class like we all sleep on mats, we all wear clothes, and we all eat food. Then talk about our differences like the color of our skin or the way we wear our hair. Allow children to be curious about each other and encourage curiosity by pointing out the unique aspects of children. Our course "Diversity and Differences: An Anti-Bias Approach to Teaching Diversity" can help.
These children’s books can help you explore the differences between us.
And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. Illus. by Henry Cole. 2005. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Silo and Roy, two male chinstrap penguins, fall in love and raise baby Tango together.
Annie Rose Is My Little Sister, by Shirley Hughes. 2003. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Big brother Alfie lovingly discusses the different things he and his younger sister do together.
Black Is Brown Is Tan, by Arnold Adoff. Illus. by Emily Arnold McCully. 2002. New York: Harper Collins.
New illustrations accompany the original 1973 text, which explores and celebrates multiracial families.
Everywhere Babies, by Susan Meyers. Illus. by Marla Frazee. 2001. San Diego: Harcourt.
Nursing, rocking, giggling, and growing—this book celebrates babies and all that they do.
The Family Book, by Todd Parr. 2003. New York: Little, Brown.
This colorful, lively story celebrates many different types of families, including stepfamilies, families with two moms or two dads, and single-parent families.
Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman. Illus. by Diana Souza. 2000. Los Angeles: Alyson Wonderland.
In this now classic story, Heather, a preschooler with two moms, discovers that many of her friends have very different sorts of families.
In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers, by Javaka Steptoe. 1997. New York: Lee and Low Books.
This collection of poems honoring African American fathers won the 1998 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.
Lots of Grandparents, by Shelley Rotner and Sheila Kelly. 2003. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook.
Full of photographs, this simple book celebrates many different kinds of grandparents.
Mystery Bottle, by Kristen Balouch. 2006. New York: Hyperion.
A young boy and his Iranian grandfather are brought together by a magic bottle.
Quinito, Day and Night, by Ina Cumpiano. Illus. by Jose Ramirez. 2008. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press.
In this bilingual book (English and Spanish), Quinito and his family introduce readers to the world of opposites.