Teaching Children to Value Diversity

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Young children are naturally curious about differences. Early on, they seek to understand our complex world by sorting objects, actions or people into groups. That looks like my toy truck. She has brown eyes, just like me. At the same time, they're trying to figure out right from wrong and good from bad.

As a result, they may begin to label anything that's different from them as negative or undesirable. We can help children value diversity by modeling a nonjudgmental acceptance of differences as normal and neither good nor bad.

Stories can help get the conversational ball rolling. For example, in Highlights High Five™, we've recently featured a story in which the main characters have a classmate who uses a walker. After reading one of these stories, you can talk about why a child (or an older adult) might need a walker.

Below are a few recommended books to help young children learn about differences. Look for them at your local public library. And while you're there, ask the children's librarian for more suggestions.

Fiesta Babies, by Carmen Tafolla - Introduce your child to lively Hispanic fiesta celebrations.

Leo, the Late Bloomer, by Robert Kraus - The classic story of a lion cub who needs a little extra time.

What If Your Best Friend Were Blue? by Vera Kochan - This imaginative story helps children understand that it's what's on the inside that counts.

Hero Dad, by Melinda Hardin - The superhero in this story wears Army boots, drives trucks and has to travel far to help keep the world safe.

Many Days, One Shabbat, by Fran Manushkin - A family gets ready to celebrate the Sabbath.

Matilda and Hans, by Yokococo - This story of a very good cat and a very naughty cat helps young readers understand there's good and bad in all of us.

An Amish Year, by Richard Ammon - A young Amish girl describes a year in her life and the activities that fill it.

Someone Special, Just like You, by Effie Lee Morris - The black-and-white photos in this book may seem a bit dated, but the message is timeless: We all have much in common with children with disabilities.

Moses Goes to a Concert, by Isaac Millman - Moses and his classmates, who use American Sign Language, are on their way to a concert.

We Wanted You, by Liz Rosenberg - Through the loving voices of a child's parents, the reader learns about a multiracial adoption.

My First Ramadan, by Karen Katz - Follow along with one young boy as he observes the Muslim holy month with his family.

Amos and Boris, by William Steig - A classic tale of friendship between two unlikely animals – a whale and a mouse.

The Colors of Us, by Karen Katz - A 7-year-old girl wants to paint a self-portrait. She and her mom take a walk through the neighborhood and talk about the colors of their friends' skin.

-Kathleen Hayes is Editor of Highlights High FiveTM and Highlights HelloTM magazines. To learn more about Highlights products, please visitwww.highlights.com.