Earlier today, I picked up my son from school. As soon as he jumped in the car, he started telling me about a discussion they had in class about racial segregation in the US, and how “the white people and the black people drinking from different bubblers”. I understood his class discussion was related to Black History Month. As he was recounting the story in his 6-year old’s words, I couldn’t help but getting nervous at the prospect of having to explain what Black History Month is really about.
With all the positive and negative events that have occurred in our society, from racial tragedies to movements igniting change such as #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, #TimesUp and the #WomensMarch, it’s more important than ever for everyone to learn our history. This is especially crucial for kids as they are growing up in a society that is ever-changing.
It took me some time as a parent to come to terms with how to properly explain what Black History really means to my kids. The last thing I wanted was for them to grasp a sense of being different, or to build walls with others. It was important for me convey that as important as history is, it is to be used as a learning experience to make the present and future better.
Here are a few ways to explain and share Black History with kids, minus the uncomfortable conversations and hushed tones:
Explain with compassion
Black History Month is about celebrating the achievements of African-American men and women throughout history. Teaching kids about the contributions of the African-American culture to modern society, and having compassion as you share the unfortunate events of the past, such as slavery and segregation, is key.
Teach them through books
There are many available books sharing black history, from slavery to the civil rights movement. You can find these at the local bookstore or library. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee (for toddlers)
- Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler (for toddlers)
- The Colors of Us by Karen Katz (for preschoolers)
- What a wonderful world by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele
- The Baby on the Way by Karen English (for kindergartners)
- He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson (for kindergartners)
- Yesterday I had the blues by Jeron Ashford Frame (for first graders)
- Fishing Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney (for first graders)
- A Pride of African Tales by Donna L. Washington (for second graders)
- Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream (for second graders)
- Precious and the Boo Hag by Patricia McKissack (for third graders)
- Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll (for third graders)
Let them taste it
How about teaching about Black History Month through their taste buds? You may want to cook up a pot of southern style collard greens, or take them to a restaurant specializing in African American heritage food.
Have them experience the artistic side of it
There are many art events, both local and non-local, during Black History Month. Research performances at your local library, schools, or community centers, so your kids can experience the arts part as well.
Build a family tree
A fun project for the kids to teach them about black history is to build a family tree. It may involve some research but will keep the kids engaged and learning.
Visit historical places
Have you considered visiting African Heritage museums, or historical places that can be used as learning moments for the kids. Do some research to locate these places in and outside of town.
Talk to elderly relatives and friends
Do you have access to elderly relatives and friends that your kids can talk to and learn from as related to Black history? Create a connection between the different generations so they can learn from each other.
What other tips do you have to teach kids about Black History?
To Your Success,
The Corporate Sis.
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