Did you know that as early as three months old, a child can begin to recognize differences in skin color? It’s a good piece of data for those wondering when children become aware of racial differences. A three-month-old won’t yet have the cognitive abilities to understand how racial differences influence social experience, but they have already begun to recognize skin color. So for those wondering if it’s too soon to speak to a 10-year-old about racial issues, it’s technically late. But, it’s definitely better late than never. Aisha White, the director for the Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education Program at the University of Pittsburgh shared some important information in this interview on how to speak to children about racial relations in America, and particularly June 19th.
Aisha does note that children younger than six or seven may not be prepared to handle the negative feelings that will arise from the story, but starting around that age, it is important to find ways to educate children – both Black and white – about the history of slavery. The conversation will look different for parents speaking to Black children versus white children, though. Parents speaking to black children should look to deliver messages that are “Protective and can serve as a preventive measure that interrupts the process of them internalizing negative attitudes about themselves,” says White. As for parents speaking to white children, the messages are about preventing negative attitudes about those with a different skin color from their own, and preventing any feeling of superiority due to their skin color. White does say that books can be an excellent way of delivering these messages, and so, to help parents looking for a way to honor June 19th with their children, we’ve rounded up some good kid’s books that help explain the significance of the day to their kids, as well as books that cover other milestone moments in the history of racial relations.
The Story Of June Nineteenth: An Interactive History Adventure, ages 8 to 11
This is an excellent choice for children who still get easily distracted when simply reading a book or looking at a picture book. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure book that begins right after slavery has been declared over, but that change hasn’t yet permeated the country. Children will choose between three story lines, 46 decisions, and 22 alternate endings as they imagine being a newly freed slave. The different directions the book takes readers on will have them encounter real obstacles newly freed slaves may have faced at the time, like looking for lost family and encountering regions that don’t yet know slavery has ended.