Early childhood literacy includes preparing our community’s babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to arrive “ready to learn” come kindergarten. As part of her intentional work to ensure diversity, inclusion, and equity in all storytimes, Early Literacy Librarian Shelley Harris recently shared a resource she’s found impactful in her everyday storytime work and when auditing Oak Park’s early childhood titles:
Megan Dowd Lambert, children’s literature professor and author of Reading Picture Books with Children, shares specifics about using a race-conscious lens and includes tips for talking about race at storytime:
- It’s okay to point out racial differences in picture books: “Is that skin color darker or lighter than yours? How would you describe this skin color? Or yours? Or mine?”
- Use “fair/unfair” when talking about racial stereotypes or exclusion in picture books: “Wow, this picture book only includes white male inventors. That’s unfair. Did you know that ____ created things, too? Let’s read about some famous ____ inventors.”
- Embrace cultural and racial differences and reinforce that “different” and “weird” aren’t the same. “Why is her hair weird?” “Her hair is different from yours. Some people have straight, curly, or wavy hair. It’s great that we’re different.”
- Respect children’s curiosity by responding to their hard questions and sometimes embarrassing observations, or by admitting gaps in your knowledge. “Let me think about that for a while,” or “That’s a good question,” or “I don’t know” can be great replies.