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“Research on prejudice shows that coming in contact with people who are different – so-called ‘others’ – helps to reduce stereotypes,” writes BJ Epstein on the conversation.com website. “This is because when we see people who initially seem different, we learn about them and get closer to them through their story. The ‘other’ seems less far away and, well, less ‘otherly.’
But while it may be ideal for children to actually meet people from different backgrounds in person, if that isn’t possible, books can serve as a first introduction to an outside world…
All of these reasons are why the We Need Diverse Books movement was set in motion in 2014, stemming from a discussion between children’s books authors Ellen Oh and Malinda Lo. The movement aims for more diverse children’s books to actually be created and for these works to be available to young people.”
And in the popular new book, You Can’t Celebrate That, the author, Nadia Jaboneta tells the story of a child named Kiley who made a seemingly insensitive remark, but was actually just making an assumption based on a lack of exposure to diversity in her religious celebrations. Jaboneta explains about what she learned in conversations with Kiley’s parents, Mark and Sarah.
“As Mark and Sarah thought about how Kiley had come to the conclusion that only people with white skin could celebrate Rosh Hashanah, they recognized that there are no people of color at their temple. With the typical curious mind of an observant child, Kiley had certainly noticed this, and drawn her own conclusions about who can be Jewish and what Jewish people look like. This was a strong reminder to all of us that we adults have to be intentional about what we expose children to in their everyday lives.”
Source: “Why children’s books that teach diversity are more important than ever,” by BJ Epstein, theconversation.com, February 6, 2017
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