“We are trying to discover the ways our children are reading the world…What is the story they are telling themselves? What have they picked up?”
—Aija Simmons, from the organization Windows, Mirrors, and Glass Doors
Parts of this guide were adapted from an interview on Embrace Race with Savitha Moorthy, director, and staff members Sara Rizik-Baer and Aija Simmons at Tandem, Partners in Early Learning in San Francisco, CA. They founded Windows, Mirrors, and Glass Doors to guide parents of young children from their school community in using children’s books to start conversations about race and diversity. The interview took place on a webinar at embracerace.org on October 22, 2020 —recording posted on the website.
- Familiarize yourself with the story before sharing it with your child, if possible, to be prepared for whatever might come up.
- Show enthusiasm about the story, and your child will tap into your energy. Ideally, the experience is just as enjoyable for you as it is for your child.
- Linger over the pictures—“read” the pictures. Pictures carry of lot of importance. Give your child a few moments to notice things. Sometimes, you may even choose to ignore the words themselves and just talk about what you are seeing.
- Ask open-ended questions, such as “What do you notice?” or make comments like “I wonder why…”
- Pay close attention to the things that catch your child’s attention. A powerful connection can come from following his/her interests.
- Talk only about what your child seems ready to discuss at the time. Your child may not focus on what you were hoping they would get out of the story, and that is OK.
- Don’t feel the need to cover every detail in one sitting. Children often like to come back and read the same story over and over again—really get to know it. When you come back to the story at a later time, you can discover additional details and layers of meaning.
- Interactivity is key to success. Your interaction will take different forms as your child advances through the stages of development.
- Parents interact with children age 2 and younger mainly by labeling and describing. And your child’s responses might be simply looking at the picture, pointing, nodding, babbling. The exchange is still conveying meaning.
- Over time, sharing stories with your child becomes more of a two-way conversation. Comments, questions, and responses bounce back and forth between you. With an older child, take opportunities to make connections and relate the story to your child’s life.
- When sharing stories with children of different ages, sometimes younger children are motivated to just “listen in” to books you share with older siblings and will absorb what they can. Older children might enjoy helping to share age-appropriate books with younger children.
- If you listen carefully, your child will open the door to a lot of conversations. You are building a trusting relationship with your child over time—one that invites sharing thoughts, emotions, and actions related to race and diversity in the world.