Today marks the beginning of Black History Month, and with it also begins an important opportunity for parents everywhere to ensure all kids learn about the contributions of Black Americans to our country. In particular, as a Black father with two daughters, I look forward to this time of year. However, I wonder if we send the wrong, if not mixed messages, to children when we over-emphasize black history (or any other type of history for that matter) at one time of the year rather than throughout the year. It makes me think about all the ways that we as parents should use teachable moments everyday to acknowledge, celebrate, and teach our children about their heritage and the cultures of others.
So, in addition to attending the black history month celebrations that are set to kick off this month, throughout the month I will be providing tips for parents to make teaching black history an ongoing part of our lives. Here’s tip #1.
Diversify your children’s literature: This is an easy first step. When I think about what my children know about their culture, much of it comes from the stories they’ve heard and the pictures they see everyday. Children, especially black children, need to see positive models of themselves represented in literature to understand that they have a place. A few books that my daughters love to read are written by Karen Beamont, I like Myself, I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More. A great book that tells the story of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, from the perspective of a young child is We March by Shane Evans. Perhaps my favorite books that started the dialogue about race with my daughters was Taye Diggs, Chocolate Me and Marianne Richmond’s I believe in You. In Chocolate Me, a little black boy comes to terms with the beauty of his skin color when compared to his peers and in I Believe in You, my oldest daughter first made the connection that the girl in the book has “pretty brown skin like mommy and daddy”.