The White Families’ Guide For Talking About Racism
*click ANY image in this post to be taken to the product.
White families, if you’re here, we hope it’s because you’re ready to start having important conversations with your children about racism and actively planning what your family can do to help.
The guide is intended for caregivers to use with their white children. If you have children who are not white, but who are also a part of your family, this guide is not for them. Black, indigenous, and other children of color DO NOT need to be present while you process through how you may have been complicit in racism. This will cause them further harm and trauma.
Look through the entire guide and take notes. Familiarize yourself with the content, so that you can feel prepared to facilitate a conversation. Read up on the definitions and think of simpler terms or analogies you may need to use to help your kids understand. You should also be ready to share times that you personally have seen or taken part in racism. Explain to your kids what happened. You may need to explain what you would change about what you did or the lesson you learned.
Remember this: Your kids are exposed to racism all of the time, whether or not you’ve ever labeled it for them. They see unfair things happening and they hear racist comments. Giving them the tools and vocabulary they need to recognize it and speak up about it will help them feel empowered to be a part of the solution and show a Black friend, stranger, or classmate that they can depend on your child to be an *ally. (See image below for a note on allyship)
When defining racism for your kids, please be sure to talk to them about microaggressions. Some kids (and adults) only think of racism as the really big and violent acts Black people face. It isn’t always easy to spot if you don’t know what all forms of it look like.
We need you to know that you and your kids can do racist things, even if you don’t identify yourself as a racist person. In the same way that a nice person can sometimes do or say mean things that are out of character, so can you or your children when it comes to doing or saying racist things. Now that you’ve committed to being more aware, you may notice things more clearly and be able to call it out every time you see it. And you’ll be able to change your behavior and apologize when you need to.
It may feel weird to tell your kid(s) they’ve done something racist. But it’s helpful to be direct. You aren’t going to yell at them about it, but you will need to remind them that it’s wrong. They will quickly learn to distinguish between what’s just being mean and what’s actually racist. Our own children have similar lessons. We, Black parents, have to teach them to identify racism they are experiencing, so that they can come tell us about it and can learn to advocate for themselves.
Make sure to also tell your kids WHY you all are focusing on being an ally to the Black community. Remind them that, everyone matters, but right now, you are focusing on the Black community and the racism they experience.
It’s important to tie racism into history. You know your child best. If you need to research enslavement, segregation, Jim Crow laws, protests, Juneteenth, white supremacy, and police brutality before engaging with your children so you feel prepared to answer their questions about where racism came from or why people are racist, make sure you do this before you sit down to have a lesson with them. Again, being prepared to have the conversation, will make you feel more comfortable. It will help you explain in your own words why this work is important for your family.
Throughout our guide you will see symbols that serve as visual cues. Sometimes your child will be asked to stop and reflect. Sometimes there will be a question to answer. We encourage caregivers to answer the questions, too. It is helpful for kids to see they are not alone in their feelings, thoughts, or experiences.
There is also a symbol for questions. Don’t forget to stop periodically to see how your child is processing the information. How are they feeling? What are they confused about? What would they like to know? Encourage them to ask! Be mindful of your tone or your facial expressions so that kids are not inadvertently discouraged from sharing honest answers. Remember, anything they’ve learned (from you or elsewhere) can be unlearned.
We made sure to include many exercises and questions that could lead to deeper conversations, but we can’t have the conversations for you. These lessons are only as effective as you allow them to be.
Here are some articles and book links that will help you with this resource:
- THE ROLE OF WHITE CO-CONSPIRATORS IN DISMANTLING SYSTEMIC RACISM
- How White Parents Can Use Media to Raise Anti-Racist Kids
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning
- This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work
- the conscious kid
- We need more white parents to talk to their kids about race. Especially now.
CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO PURCHASE.
We hope you can shift away from thinking these conversations are too hard to have, to realizing these conversations are too important NOT to have.
LaNesha and Naomi
Because we realize the value of important topics like this, LaNesha and I love to make sure our own students and children are exposed to a variety of much needed social studies lesson. We teach kindergarten and first grade, but our students continue to amaze us with the big ideas they are able to handle!
What are your children learning in school for social studies? How diverse are the books being presented to them at school? It’s important for parents to continue to take an active role in what their students are learning!
You can push for culture nights at your school. Ask what anti-racist work your child’s school engages in. You may also want to ask how important inclusion and diversity is for every classroom in your child’s building.
Together, we can make a difference.
Click here to check out the social studies resources we have created. Consider purchasing a unit for a teacher to use. They are K-2 friendly!
Perspectives Through Picture Books
My teaching partner in crime, LaNesha and I, are obsessed with pushing our kids to become the best readers and people they can be. One way we think that can be achieved is through the texts we put in front of them all year long.
Diversity in children’s books is seriously lacking and we have made it our mission to make a better effort about making sure the texts we place in front of our students show diversity, deepen the love of literature, and widen their perspectives.
We went through the books we typically use for read aloud time and realized we could be doing better. There were waaaaay too many animals and not enough culture, diversity, and inclusiveness. We decided to make ourselves a little checklist so that we could always pick a text we were proud of. We also made the shift of picking a text that was 1 to 2 years above our kindergarten and first grade students grade level. We started using books for an entire week AND covering all the standards with one book. In the past, we chose several different books to help teach one or two standards. But now we are using one book to teach them ALL! (WHAT?!?)
We pull out a powerful perspective or understanding they can gain from the text and keep that in mind while we plan for the week. Everything we plan will help them gain this perspective. We always have a culminating task at the end of the week to gauge their understanding, and every step we take along they way prepares them to be wildly successful with that task.
So, after we decide on a title, we think about the background knowledge needed for students to be able to access this text. We are not ashamed to tell you that we may take one or two days to build background knowledge before we ever open the text. I don’t know if that was shocking to you, but it was a HUGE shift for us. A shift that made a world of difference! If your students can read all of the words in a text, but have no idea what the content is about, they aren’t reading! They have to be able to comprehend what they are reading. Background knowledge is one of the keys to comprehension. And because we are going to teach from the same book for a couple of days, making this much time to build background knowledge made more sense and felt more meaningful.
In addition to building background knowledge, we make sure we pick three words from the text that are relevant to comprehending the story.
We teach them the words, and add in two synonyms and practice them all week long. We use an idea called synonym triplets from the amazing, Augusta Mann.
The next parts of our lessons all work together to create an incredible reading lesson. We plan out each day. We decide which 2-3 standards we will focus on each day and then create comprehension questions and anchor charts to capture student thinking for all of those days. We start with the basic standards and skills like story elements and retelling. We make anchor charts, answer questions, and set our daily purpose for reading around those standards early in the week. This helps set the foundation for trickier standards that we work on later.
We make sure we are asking higher order thinking questions to get our students really thinking! We also allow our students to respond in a variety of ways.
If you aren’t familiar with the depth and complexity icons, you should definitely look into them! They are amazing tools that can help you transform the way you ask your students questions. Many question stems are available to help you get started!
Let’s pretend it’s day two of a lesson. We spent day one building background knowledge and learning vocabulary. Now we will start this day by telling our students we are going to focus on the characters, setting, problem and solution. We give certain groups of students specific parts to focus on. In my class, my students wear badges. One year they were either ‘peanut butter’ or ‘jelly’. I would say, “Peanut butter, you all are paying attention to the characters and the problem. Jelly friends, you are focusing on the setting the solution.” All of my students always have dry erase boards during this time, and while I read, they draw/write to take notes. I use their notes and their input to create anchor charts.
Since I know in advance what standard I’m focusing on, and I chose an anchor chart to support it, the comprehension questions I ask will assess their understanding of those standards. The questions must be standard based and require higher order thinking. We can’t expect students to answer a rigorous question at the end of the week, if we don’t prepare them for it during the week! The anchor chart they helped create is visible at all times during the lesson (that day and all week), and my students are allowed to use it to support their answers.
Now, I am Thinking Maps trained, so that’s what I use, but any anchor chart will do! Use whatever works for you and your students. If you’re comparing and contrasting characters/events you can use a double bubble map, but a Venn diagram is effective, too! Or any chart the visually organizes information for your kids in a way that makes sense to them. Make sure your charts have a guiding question (related to the reading focus for the day) so that when students refer back to it, they know what information they are looking at and what thinking was involved. If you look into Thinking Maps, they all have key words associated with them that can be used in your guiding questions.
Last, but certainly not least, we have our meaningful task. It’s a task that relates to the book and will allow students to apply what they learned in a meaningful way. It’s a way for LaNesha and I to see if the perspective we chose and taught was gained. It’s going to be more than a craft or a coloring sheet. It might be a debate about the decisions the characters made or an event in the story. It might be a writing prompt that requires students to use higher order thinking skills to answer. You’ll find a few more ideas below! I, myself, love a good debate!
After reading the book, The Empty Pot, with my students, we had a debate about the actions of one the characters. My students filled out a pre-debate sheet. They had to give reasons about whether or not the agreed or disagreed with a statement I gave about one of the character’s integrity. They had to use text based evidence to defend their side. I didn’t have to ask about character, setting, problem and solution, because all of that knowledge came out during the debate. They used their background knowledge, their new vocabulary and the learning captured each day on anchor charts and during text discussions to support their positions. I didn’t have to ask them to simply retell the story, they were using parts of the story in their arguments! Saying things like, “Well, remember in the beginning….” or, “But, at the end of the story…”. It was amazing to see and hear. Little kids can do BIG things. LaNesha and I firmly believe that.
We have some planned out Perspective Through Picture Books lessons already completed for you to check out! All you need is the book!
Cultivating Cultural Intelligence in Primary Students
Have you ever taken the time to stop and think about how some people grow up a little close minded about people from various cultures? Why some people are able to relate and work well with people from backgrounds different from their own and why others can’t seem to accept anyone or anything that doesn’t fall in line with their own cultural norms?
Whenever LaNesha and I see real world issues going on, we always stop and think about how we can bring that back into our classroom and make it a lesson to engage in with our students. We are producing citizens of the world! We need to prepare them, right?
We put together a lesson to help our students build their cultural intelligence and explore their own cultures.
Below are just a few pages from an eBook we created in order to get the information to our kindergarten and first grade students in a way they would understand.
Can you imagine the conversations and growth that could come out of lessons like this? These students would learn the importance of embracing and valuing differences at such an early age! It’s not always enough to just say, “Be nice to everyone even if they are different.” We must directly talk about what the differences may be.
We created a few ways for our students to learn more about their own cultures and reflect about the cultures’ of others.
We created two digital resources (in addition to the eBook) for students to create a culture journal. We made a printable one as well. They can be seen below. The digital files can be assigned in Google Classroom. Students can type directly on the pages and add in any images they’d like!
The digital version below might be an easier format for younger students. If possible, you can send the files home for a family project.
I started working with my son on his digital journal and he loved it! You can pick whichever format you and your students are most comfortable with. Check out my son, Noah’s journal!
Don’t get scared away by all of this digital stuff! A printable version is included in our resource, too. Imagine how much you could document and learn about your students. Imagine how much they would learn about themselves and each other. Building cultural intelligence is a great way to help students appreciate the beauty in our differences.
Juneteenth at Home or in the Classroom
Have you ever learned about and/or celebrated Juneteeth at home or in the classroom? Imagine the day when Juneteenth can be known about, valued, and remembered by all U.S. Americans. Juneteenth is short for June Nineteenth. June 19th is a holiday that marks the day that enslaved people that lived in our country, found out that they were legally free. It isn’t a national holiday, yet, but it’s important to know about!
In order to bring this important day to students and our children, LaNesha Tabb and I created an eBook to give our students the history behind this day. We also created some activities that would give students and kids a chance to do something with their new knowledge.
Below you will find a few pages from the eBook created. We project our books on the board and read aloud. We pause when needed to allow students to process and take in the information. Whenever we teach social studies, we always take the time to build our students knowledge around the content we want them to learn. We make time for turn and talks. We allow our students to share their ideas and respectfully agree or disagree.
We follow up by having our students fill out a reflection sheet. Even emerging writers can use a combination of letters and pictures to share their ideas. I always love give them some independent time to reflect. Then we bring our sheets back to the whole group area and share our reflections with a friend. Those who would like to share with the entire group have the chance to. The powerful and insightful conversations that start always blow me away!
In this resource we also included a Juneteenth magazine template. This would be a create way for students to show what the learned and share this learning with others! One year (with a different topic), I had my students create a magazine. I made color copies and binded them all together to make a full magazine for each student to take home. They loved it. When we give our students’ writing, a real audience, it helps them build a sense of pride about their writing.
We decided that it would be special for our students to plan a remembrance day for Juneteenth. We realized that it would be appropriate and respectful not to just plan a celebration. This day may not feel like a celebration for some people for various reasons. We want our students to really think about what this day cold be in their community. With their class or with their families.
We also really wanted to think about the WHY behind each decisions. This would be a good chance to make sure students didn’t simply plan a fun party without thinking about the true meaning and history of this day.
This day is for everyone. It can be used to educate yourself about issues the Black community still faces and see how you can help. To teach your kids powerful history lessons and have hard, but important and honest conversations. It can be a day of remembrance for the Black community. How far we’ve come, but how far we still we still need to go. It can be a day to celebrate freedom from enslavement and honor our ancestors. It can be a day to mourn and think about all we fight on a daily basis. It can be a day that as a country (the United States of America) we commit to doing better. We hope you and your students, or you and your children enjoy this resource and your Juneteenth.
Books as Mirrors and Windows (As Defined by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop)
Have you ever heard about books being thought about as a window or a mirror? Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop has some insightful knowledge to share about that concept.
My teaching partner, LaNesha Tabb, and I love teaching our kindergarten and first grade students about this concept! Mirrors are books that contain story lines, characters, and experiences you can see yourself in. You can make personal connections to these books. You feel seen and heard after reading a book that is a mirror. A book that is a window helps you see into the life or experience of someone else. You may not be able to relate, but you can learn and grow from that story line or the book’s characters. When LaNesha and I present books to our students as windows and mirrors, it helps us reflect about the books we read in a meaningful way. It also helps us pick the books we expose our students to. We like to have a good balance of windows and mirrors. Our goal is to always build perspective through the picture books we choose, so we are very picky about what we place in front of our students, and WHY we placed it in front of them.
LaNesha and I intentionally choose texts that are diverse and complex. We use this texts to teach all of the CCSS to our students over the course of a week. We also choose a perspective from the book and guide them towards this new knowledge by building background knowledge, learning vocabulary, using thinking maps, and asking higher order standards based questions. At the end of each lesson, we seek to introduce a meaningful and relevant task for our students so they can put all of their learning together and apply what they have learned.
We help our students build a portfolio of perspectives by having them reflect about a lesson the book taught them. They also explain why the book was a window or a mirror for them. Then they explain the perspective learned. Imagine what you could build over the course of year with the titles you choose to put in front of your students!