With the events of the past year we’re hearing more and more that it is not enough to be passively non-racist, but we actually need to be actively antiracist. Being antiracist means to fight against racism, rather than just not participate. This includes taking a pre-emptive approach to educating our early years about different cultures and races, to instil a respect and love for our diverse society, rather than waiting until there is an incident where we suddenly need to address race. One easy step you can take is making sure that the books and stories in your setting have a range of diverse characters. The stories don’t need to directly address race, but it is vital for children to see a variety of different cultures and skin colours represented equally at story time.
To help you begin your journey to antiracism (which, we must add, will never end – antiracism is a continuous effort rather than a box to tick when you’re done that says “not racist anymore”), here are some of That Nursery Life’s favourite early years books that celebrate diversity and encourage antiracism.
1. Antiracist Baby by Ibram X.Kendi
While written as a simple picture book with rhyming couplets, this book speaks more to caregivers than children, but can still be a fun storybook (if you’re prepared to explain a lot of long words). Antiracist Baby shows the work that’s needed to raise a child who sees and celebrates a culturally and racially diverse world, rather than judging or avoiding the topic. “Not seeing colour” is not an option, but rather we need to educate our children about the different races and cultures in our world in order to celebrate them without prejudice.
“Use your words to talk about race: No one will see racism if we only stay silent. If we don’t name racism, it won’t stop being so violent.”
2. Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho
This is the story of a girl who notices her eyes aren’t the same shape as the other girls’ at school. Instead of being sad about the difference, however, she revels in the fact that her mother, her Amah and little sister Mei-Mei all have the same beautiful eyes as her. An excellent book for any child who notices that they may look different to their classmates, showing that our differences are interesting and beautiful, linking us to our families and our heritage.
“My eyes crinkle into crescent moons and sparkle like the stars. Gold flecks dance and twirl while stories whirl in their oolong pools, carrying tales of the past and hope for the future.”
3. The Many Colours of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar
Harpreet Singh shows his emotions through the colours of his clothes and his patkas, but struggles when his family move house. A beautifully illustrated story about expressing yourself, the difficulties of moving to a new place and the difference a new friend can make. There is a wonderfully succinct note about Sikhism from the author at the end of the book, explaining why some Sikhs wear turbans or patkas, and what they represent.
“He wore yellow when he felt sunny, spreading cheer everywhere he went. He wore pink when he felt like celebrating, bopping along to bhangra beats.”
4. Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang
This funny and adorable book follows Amy, a young girl trying to carry on her family’s tradition of making the perfect bao. The image of Amy’s entire family around the dinner table crafting the bao is almost as heart-warming as the final picture of Amy handing out bao to her classmates and teachers. Bound to make children hungry, inspire them to try cooking their own bao and encourage them never to give up, it even comes with a bao recipe at the end!
“Sometimes she adds too much filling. Sometimes not enough. And sometimes they fall apart before they reach her mouth. Amy’s mom and dad make the perfect bao. So does her grandma. Their bao are soft and fluffy and so, so delicious.”
5. Riley Knows he Can by Davina Hamilton
When Riley gets the lead part in his school play his nerves keep getting the better of him, but sister Ella is there to remind him that he can do it, and he does! Riley is shown enjoying getting into costume with a diverse group of classmates before he takes to the stage. A lovely story that shows how, when we need to be brave, family support is invaluable.
“Riley felt butterflies in his tummy, he wanted to do well for Daddy and Mummy. And then he remembered his big sister’s plan, so he said in his head “I can do this, I can!”
Here’s a great online version of Riley Knows He Can, read by Charles Venn, to watch with your early years:
If you’re interested in learning more about anti-racist practice, or want some more book suggestions, then don’t miss our webinar launching the That Nursery Life Anti-racism pack!
The That Nursery Life and Liz Pemberton Anti-racism in the Early Years Seminar
April 9th, 7pm GMT.
Liz Pemberton (aka: @theblacknurserymanager) and That Nursery Life have teamed up to deliver an important resource for the Early Years sector, The Anti-Racism Pack. In this webinar Liz Pemberton and TNL CEO Sam Green will be discussing how they came to join forces, what the issues are around diversity and inclusion in early years, why they feel this pack is more important now than ever, and (most importantly) how you can get a hold of it for your setting.
The TNL Anti-Racism pack, made in partnership with Liz Pemberton, will include:
- The definitive Anti-Racism Handbook for Early Years Organisations
- Recommended reading list for Early Years organisations professionals
- Recommended books for introducing and discussing race with children in settings
- A framework for managing the report of a racist incident in the workplace
- A framework for managing the reporting of a racist incident between children
- Printable Anti-Racist Framework infographic
- Printable Pledge to Anti-Racism best practice certificate for settings