I wanted to tell you a story of a customer I met while selling books at a farmer’s market last year, that changed my perception of what it meant to teach kids about diversity.
It was a Sunday market in my hometown in South Whidbey (if you don't know Whidbey Island in the Pacific North West, it's a very non-diverse town where there were a very small community of people of color). My customer, a mom of two beautiful little girls, wanted to buy the Everyday quiet book, which came with a doll.
I noticed her two little white, blond hair girls so I gave her the peach skin, blond hair dolls that would match their looks. However, to my surprise, she insisted on ordering extra multi-cultural dolls too (a dark brown boy). She told me these dolls was the best idea ever!
I was over the moon because it was so lovely to find someone appreciating my new ideas (the multicultural dolls have just been added last year). But more importantly, she had inspired me to think differently about these dolls and how they could serve.
Recent conversation about diversity education often refer to the concept of mirrors and windows. In a nutshell, children should be exposed to books and toys that serve as “mirrors” – a reflection of themselves and their world, which affirms to them that they matter (As you may be well aware, this could especially be lacking if your child belongs to a minority group).
Children should also be introduced to “windows”- toys, books and media that expose them to communities and people that are different from their own world.
I had intended for my quiet books with multicultural dolls to serve as mirrors – helping children affirm their identity by personalizing the dolls to be a felt-fabric avatar (down to the skin tone, hair color and hairstyle).
But with my customer’s request that day, it dawned on me that my modest little felt figurines can be windows too. Their sweet presence in our activity book can encourage children to start thinking more about people who look different from them, especially where they could not meet real-life people from diverse backgrounds on a frequent basis,
How does it feel to have the same outfit, house, routine… but skin few shades darker? Did they know kids and families in real life who look like that? These are just example of questions that parents can ask to start a conversation about diversity with these multicultural dolls.
In celebration of Valentine's Day and Black History Month, I hope you will celebrate both windows and mirrors - by curating a diverse bookshelf and toy shelf for your little ones and use those to help them explore this topic.
Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Black History Month!
PS: Inspired my lovely customer and this month's theme, I’m giving away two free multicultural dolls with each book that features a multicultural dolls (on top of the one that mirrors your child). Offers is valid until February 28, 2022. You can view the whole collection here
PSs: Last year I compiled a list of resources for talking to kids about race. If you are interested to explore this topic on Black History Month, this is the link to the complete resource page.