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Teach Young Kids About Diversity

By Naomi O'Brien

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What is Diversity?

How do we teach young kids about diversity? It may feel daunting and scary at first, but when you break it down, diversity really means difference! Difference in all the ways- color, size, height, shape, personality, ethnicity, habits, faiths, and ways of life. I mean, you would actually be hard pressed to find an example of LACK of ways people aren’t diverse. In this lesson kids get to define diversity clearly, explain why it is important, and demonstrate their own understanding of what diversity means and looks like.

Why is it important?

Why does it matter whether or not we teach young kids about diversity? When we look around our world, we see biodiversity in all the plants and animals that exist. We see eco-diversity in all the ways ecosystems exist. Human diversity is the same. Without diversity, life would be utterly boring! Diversity helps us enjoy life, thrive, and enrich each other. Furthermore, without exposure and understanding of all our human diversity, kids are left with egocentric ideals and may grow up to be less tolerant adults (all of which we have seen happen). The reasons to teach young kids about diversity ranges from enrichment and joy to absolutely necessary for well-functioning happy societies.

Our Experiences

When I teach young kids about diversity, I make sure to highlight it whenever we see it around us. I encourage them notice it outdoors, in movies, and in books. We write and draw about it to apply our learning. Very quickly the students will become the teachers, exclaiming- “there is no diversity here!” They learn and adapt quickly. They will surprise us with their empathy and care, and can be so inclusive you would be surprised because we have never expected this from them!

Notes for Adults

When we begin to teach young kids about diversity, unfortunately some adults may get anxious at the potential for pushback. Included in this lesson are easy teacher guides to help you on your way, as well as parent communication to ease the nerves. Being upfront and open can make things easier. After all, diversity really just means difference. If you are a parent, this is 100% something you can approach at home. I did this course with my own children over the summer. Read the e-book, and complete a worksheet. Seeing examples of diversity in drawings will also help kids rethink their own art work.

Books to Try Out

While you can google and find endless books to help teach young kids about diversity, here are ten fun ones to get you started. In any topic you can find diversity, you just have to start looking.

  1. The Name Jar (Name Diversity)
  2. Where Are you From? (Homeland diversity)
  3. My Food, Your Food, Our food (Food diversity)
  4. Neither (Gender Diversity)
  5. The Colors of Us (Skin diversity)
  6. All Are Welcome (Various diversity)
  7. Under My Hijab (Faith diversity)
  8. The Sandwich Swap (Economic diversity)
  9. Just Ask (Disability Diversity)
  10. Bodies Are Cool (Body Diversity)

Questions to Ask Yourself to make sure you are diversifying books:

  1. Whose voice am I centering?
  2. Are there other voices from a different community I could share?
  3. Is the voice different than my own?
  4. Who wrote the book?

This will help ensure kids are being exposed to multiple diverse perspectives to widen their world view!

Have you ever tried building perspective through picture books? Read about it here!

The resource shown in this blog post can be found by clicking the image below.

Naomi

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Hi, I'm Naomi

I have been teaching elementary students for over 10 years. Effective reading instruction and accurate social studies at the primary level are huge passions of mine! 

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