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236 Kane Street / Brooklyn, NY 11231 / 718 875-1550

Nurturing Racial Justice in Young Children

A message sent June 3, 2020, from our preschool director Rivka Seeman to parents

Dear Parents,

As we’ve all been left reeling from the horrible images that we’ve seen on tv and social media in the past several days, many of us have been trying to figure out how to discuss issues of race and of violence with our children. When it comes to violence, I maintain as always that young children need adults to give them a sense of safety, which means that some conversations and information may not be appropriate for all children. Each family needs to think through these issues and make decisions about what conversations are appropriate to have and when.

I believe that children of all ages can learn to respect all people regardless of race and other differences among us. Those values are and should be an implicit part of our curriculum for the very youngest of learners and eventually a more explicit part of the curriculum. All of our students enjoy literature and dolls that are representative of different races because it is important for each child to find themselves represented but also because I prefer for children to see representations of all of us rather than seeing their particular race as the norm. There is no norm.

By 3, we are having more explicit conversations about skin color in class, and by 4, talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. and how he taught people to treat each other with kindness and about rules being fair for everyone. You may wish to have a more explicit conversation about race with your child and if so, you may wish to have some guidance in thinking through these issues for your family. I’ve compiled a short list of resources for you. While I always prefer to recommend teachers who I myself have learned from and can vouch for, in this case I have to refer you to some resources that I am not familiar with or only tangentially so, and leave you to draw your own conclusions.

There are webinars that adults can attend on the subject of talking to children about race. There are also books both explicitly about race and racism, and stories with protagonists who are Black and People of Color.

Dr Kira Banks, “Talking to Kids About Racism
Episode 1 can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/DrKiraBanks/videos/3163881693633440/
P.J. Library offers other resources for talking to kids about racism.
https://pjlibrary.org/beyond-books/pjblog/june-2020/resources-for-talking-to-kids-about-racism. 
One of our teachers, Vanny, recommends this read aloud on Youtube of the book, A Kid’s Book about Racism, by Jelani Memory, though possibly for your older children.  Vanny cautions you to listen to the book first and
then decide if it’s appropriate for your child.
Emma and Michael Fusco-Straub, owners of the Independent Cobble Hill bookstore, Books Are Magic, have put together a list of anti-racist children’s books for kids and young readers:  https://booksaremagic.net/?q=h.
P.J. Library has also put together a list of Jewish books that include multi-ethnic families https://pjlibrary.org/books-and-music/books?
and books for talking with kids about racism
https://socialjusticebooks.org/booklists/early-childhood/racial-identity/
I would also like to call your attention to Rabbi Sam Weintraub’s message, Yizkor, Shavuot, and Our Burning Cities.

Rivka Seeman
Preschool Director
Kane Street Kids

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