Who is Starting with Stories for?
Starting with Stories is for:
• Families in the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan area with children birth to age 9 who want to start conversations about race and racism in their homes and communities.
• Talking about race and racism can feel challenging and scary. Even individuals who have been doing social justice work professionally ﬁnd it challenging to start and continue conversations with their own children.
• We all need connection, support, tools, and community to do this work.
• We hope to connect and forge relationships with other community organizations ﬁghting for racial equity.
• If you have ideas or insights that might help us in this work please contact us.
Why is talking about race helpful?
• Your child’s race is part of their identity, and talking about it in an open honest way can help them feel proud of who they are without the need to feel superior to anyone else.
• Exploring their own race and the race of others, gives them ﬁrst a sense of individual identity, and can then lead to exploring our diﬀerences as individuals and as a community.
• Developmentally the importance of discussing race can begin as soon as children are able to naturally categorize things. If we avoid talking about race it is probable we are also not talking about racism, and therefore we are unable to change its harmful impacts.
• When we don’t talk about race with our kids, they ﬁll in the blanks, extrapolating from an often inequitable and segregated existence ﬁlled with racial messages. (Phyllis Katz, 2000-2010) (Brigitte Vittrup, 2006)
• One study showed that when white children of white parents (who intentionally enrolled in a study about children’s racial attitudes) were asked “Do your parents like black people?” 14 percent said “no, they don’t,” and 38 percent said, “I don’t know.” Almost 90 percent of the enrolled parents were very reluctant or refused to talk directly about race with their children. (Brigitte Vittrup, 2006)
We don’t want to point out diﬀerences to our children. Shouldn’t we be teaching them not to see color.. that we are all the same?
• Growing up many of us (especially those of us who identify as white) were taught not to see color. “We’re all friends” and “everybody’s equal” were frequent phrases stated by our parents and teachers.
• We were taught that it was not appropriate to talk about race at all and noticing diﬀerence was in and of itself suggesting bias.
• However well-intentioned these lessons seem, not seeing race is in fact impossible.
• If we can’t see race and racism we can’t stand up against it.
How will using books help me talk about race and racism?
• When Jan and Ellie worked as librarians, the parents, teachers, and students frequently wanted books dealing with; starting school, new babies, bullies, and fears. Diﬃcult and complex topics are always more easily introduced with a story. In addition to helping to verbalize questions and concerns, story time is a fun and connective time for parents and kids.
• Books show us many diﬀerent perspectives and allow us to connect to the world across boundaries.
• Books show us that we all have shared experiences…our love of family, our hopes and dreams.. and as we see those similarities through our diﬀerences, we experience the transformative value of books.
• Books teach us lessons, and through courage and heroism, inspire us to be an active force for change in the world.
Fairy tales are more than true, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten. — Neil Gaiman
Since it is likely that children will meet true enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. — C.S. Lewis
How do you choose your books?
- With a background in school and public libraries—reading, and reading children’s books is a joy Jan and Ellie share. Starting with Stories has taken this joy and focused it on exploring themes of race and racism in children’s literature.
- We believe that all children’s bookshelves should reﬂect the rich diversity in our world. In the vast array of children’s books published each year, it is sometimes diﬃcult to know where to start.
- That being said, all books are not created equal. We have 50+ combined years of experience, in evaluating authors, illustrators, and publishers and selecting quality books for children.
- We continue to follow lists, journals, and endorsements that emphasize quality but also feature positive representation of people of color and themes of social justice.
- We have favored books whose authors, illustrators, and characters are people of color.
- We continually read and update our selections and frequently consult websites and experts in the ﬁeld of diverse children’s literature:
How are you funded?
• Starting with Stories is funded by generous donations from families and community members who support the work we are doing.
• Ellie and Jan are currently donating their time to help launch this organization.
• Starting with Stories is a registered 501(c)(3) organization. If you would like to support us and our growth, please consider making a tax-deductible donation at our Donate page.