We all want children to grow up in a world free from bias and discrimination, to reach for their dreams and feel that whatever they want to accomplish in life is possible. We want them to feel loved and included and never to experience the pain of rejection or exclusion. But the reality is that we do live in a world in which racism and other forms of bias continue to affect us. Discrimination hurts and leaves scars that can last a lifetime, affecting goals, ambitions, life choices, and feelings of self-worth.
How can we best prepare children to meet the challenges and reap the benefits of the increasingly diverse world they will inherit? We can raise children to celebrate and value diversity and to be proud of themselves and their family traditions. We can teach children to respect and value people regardless of the color of their skin, their physical abilities, or the language they speak.
As our nation grows increasingly diverse, there has never been a better opportunity for us to learn to live respectfully together and benefit from one another's wisdom and experiences. But sometimes fear, uncertainty, or discomfort prevent people from talking to each other. This is especially true when it comes to the topics of race and racism, cultural differences, language and bilingualism, and the myriad questions that arise in a world where these issues have such a powerful place in children's lives.
My children are immersed in their father's Maori culture, but we still see it as very important that we raise our kids knowing about world cultures, which hopefully will help them appreciate the differences in people and their traditions.
Ways in which you can celebrate other cultures within your family:
- Read picture books about different cultures and compare their cultures to your own. Here are some books that might be useful:
Children from Australia to Zimbabwe: A Photographic Journey Around the Worldby Maya Ajmera, Anna Rhesa Versola, Marian Wright Edelman
Houses and Homes (Around the World Series)by Ann Morris, Ken Heyman (Illustrator), Ken Hayman (Photographer)
Children Just Like Meby Susan Elizabeth Copsey, Barnabas Kindersley, Anabel Kindersley, Harry Belafonte
Hands Around the World: 365 Creative Ways to Encourage Cultural Awareness and Global Respect (Williamson Kids Can! Series)by Susan Milord
Celebrations Around the World: A Multicultural Handbookby Carole S. Angell
Children Just Like Me: Celebrations!by Anabel Kindersley (Contributor), Barnabas Kindersley (Photographer)
- Cook Authentic Recipes - doesn't have to be anything special. We have nachos on Mexican night, Fried Rice on Chinese Night, Sushi on Japanese night, Cornish Pasties on English night, Seafood on New Zealand night. We have lots of fun doing this and have incorporated it into our family night. A book that may help you with recipe ideas is The Kids' Multicultural Cookbook: Food & Fun Around the World (Williamson Kids Can! Series) written by Deanna F. Cook and illustrated by Michael P. Kline.
- Get Crafty - try to do some different types of crafts with your children from cultures around the world. The Kids' Multicultural Art Book: Art & Craft Experiences from Around the World (Williamson Kids Can! Series) written by Alexandra M. Terzian
- Map It Out - Print a world map and use push pins to illustrate where the country's located.
Every time you learn about a new country, use another push pin on your world map. See how many countries she can visit.
- Make a small booklet to serve as her passport. The pages should be blank on the inside. That way, you can draw, use a sticker or glue a picture of the country's flag to stamp the pages of her passport as she "travels" from country to country to learn about world cultures.