Since this country’s most recent renewed conversations about race, I’ve seen a surge of resources designed to help caregivers and educators of young children. Some are for helping white people with their understanding of the issues at hand; some are geared toward people of color. I’ve been excited to see many book lists for kids. Books about diversity, inclusion, history. Books with black and brown images and characters. Books about movements and leaders. These books are as wonderful as they are necessary. I hope they are added to homes and classrooms alike. And soon. I hope that one day, my own books will be among them.
These lists, these tools… They are great pieces of the puzzle that is talking to kids about race.
That said, there’s a big, broad topic that’s been missing in these discussions for me: Geography. I know it might seem strange, but geography literally opens a child’s mind to the world.
When my kiddo was around four or five, he became enthralled by continents, then countries, then states, and on and on. His grandparents had an old globe in the basement, and he wanted a new one for home. When he got one, he loved to compare the differences, noticing how the world has changed throughout its history.
To build off his interest, we started watching these great music videos about geography. They shared facts in the most fun way, and they painted pictures of places so different than our own. And the people who lived in these places… Some seemed the same; some were different. Exploring these people and places gave us countless opportunities to grow his perception of the world, to shape what can be beautiful and interesting. We were able to foster a wonder for people who may appear one way on the surface, while also discovering commonalities building connections to ourselves and others as we learned more.
Whether you’ve studied or traveled, or you’ve never strayed from your community, you can still give your kids the world and help them develop the mindset to appreciate it. There are so many resources out there for this type of exploration, too. The types of books you could add to your shelves are endless! And together with the books with diverse characters, inclusive messages, and historic lessons, geographic awareness can add another layer that supports the open and inclusive way your child processes beyond your community, to your country and the world at large.
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