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Children are not born racist, and parents are a child’s most significant teachers. While leading by example speaks volumes, it is also essential to talk to kids about your family’s stance on racism and equality.
Discussing racism with your kids can seem like a daunting task, especially when you have young children. However, the National Association for the Education of Young Children asserts that it is especially important to start the conversation when they are little. Research shows that children begin noticing racial differences and sometimes begin to exclude peers based on racial differences by ages 3 to 5.
Vera Ahiyya is a Brooklyn, New York-based kindergarten teacher who is also a tutu creator, author, blogger and YouTuber known as the Tutu Teacher. Ahiyaa created a video for young children on her YouTube channel called “Let’s Talk About Race,” in which she reads a book of the same title by Julius Lester.
In the video, she also explains racism in a way that all ages can understand.
“You may have noticed or heard your family talk about what’s happening in the news,” she begins. “Some people have the belief that people with black or brown skin should not have the same rights or privileges as people with white skin. This is called racism.”
Speaking softly and clearly but never talking down to young viewers, she explains further.
“Racism has happened in the United States for over 400 years,” Ahiyaa says. “That’s a very long time! And by now, you would think that something so terrible would be gone. But it’s not that easy.”
Ahiyya shared the video on YouTube:
Ahiyaa states that it’s our job to stop racism, providing actionable steps that even young kids can take. She asks children to call out racism when they see it.
“If you see someone being treated differently because of the color of their skin, you have the voice; you make the choice to say, ‘This is wrong,'” she shares. “Even as little as 3 years old, you have a voice.”
She suggests that children also write letters to show support and ask family and friends about other ways they might help. “Your voice matters,” she reminds them.
After reading Lester’s book, Ahiyya closes out the video. “So friends, race is only one part of who we are,” she says, “and it’s sometimes, it’s the biggest thing people talk about because it’s the biggest thing they can see.”
She gently reminds them that, as the book explained, everyone has a story made up of many parts.
“We have to get to a place where we stop making judgments about our skin and start to get to know the whole story,” she suggests. “Whenever you see someone start to make a judgment about one part of someone’s story, speak up! If ever you see someone start to tell people, ‘You can’t do that!’ just because of one part of their story, I want you to speak up. The only way for things to get better and to change is if we do this together. So, my friends, will you help me?”
Educators seemed to appreciate the opportunity to use the video as a resource for students. “I love you so much for your post,” Stacy Perlman wrote. “As a principal, I will use it with students and staff. Thank you for being a voice and giving tools that we need.”
Others are excited to pass it along to the parents and even adults in their lives. “This is beautiful,” commented @treinhardt. “Your students are v(ery) lucky. Thank you for sharing that. I am sharing with friends that have children. I also know some adults that should listen.”
And so many parents are grateful for a helping hand as they grapple with talking to their children about racism in a way they can comprehend.
“I have been struggling with how to start this conversation with my kids,” wrote @thesustainablebee. “I am working on educating myself and worry that I don’t understand enough to teach my children well, but I know it needs to start now. So thank you… I really appreciate that you have put this out there.”