The first step to introduce kids to any topic of identity

The first step to introduce kids to any topic of identity

One of the questions we're often asked is: "Is my child too young to start learning about social justice?"
 
The answer: No, but how you teach about identity at an early age matters. Actually, how you teach social justice at any age matters.
 
The 9-step Framework
We've created a 9-step framework for introducing kids to social justice, and it's important to take some of the key steps in order!
 
This matters a lot because introducing it all in the wrong order can actually risk increasing bias in your kids.
 
Step 1: Positive, Diverse Representation
So what is step 1? Expose kids to positive, diverse representation.
 
Before we get into how to do that, let's talk about why it's so important for this to be the first step.
 
When kids are really young (age 3 or younger) or have limited media exposure, they may not have taken in or developed any bias about a particular issue of justice.
 
So the first thing we want to do is make sure the bias they do develop will be a positive association of diverse groups of people.
 
In the early stage, the best thing you can do is simply include positive, diverse representation in the media they consume and the people they encounter (to the extend you can). This can start from birth!
 
What Does This Look Like?
For example, if you're thinking about the topic of anti-racism:
  • Read books written by BIPOC authors featuring BIPOC characters. These are not books about racism or the civil rights movement (they don't know about that yet!), but just books that positively portray BIPOC characters.
  • These books might portray stories of everyday life, like a book about a kid's first day of school (with a Black main character). Or they might be stories of amazing BIPOC folks, like a nonfiction children's book that tells the story of a Indigenous inventor or scientist.
  • Apply this to all media they consume - movies, shows, books, and anything else they take in. It's a bonus if you actually have a diverse group of folks in your real life, too!
This same process can work for all different topics of social justice and identity. For example, repeat the same thing with: immigration, gender identity, body size, language diversity, religious diversity, LGBTQ+ identities, disabilities, neurodiversity, and so much more.
 
Why Is This Step First?
With positive representation, you're not actually talking about topics of justice, but your little ones are seeing positive examples of historically and contemporarily oppressed groups. Little by little, they will develop a positive association with many diverse groups and experiences.
 
When you do this, your child will develop a fundamentally positive view of different identities (from positive representation). So, in the case of race, when your child learns about racism for the first time, they will already have a basis for saying: "No, that doesn't align with what I already know." That's what we want them to think!
 
Let's say the first time a child learns about a transgender person, for example, they're learning about transphobia. In that case, they don't have the chance to have that, "Wait.... that doesn't make sense with what I already know about the world" moment. That moment is so powerful! Without that, transphobia becomes their baseline understanding of the transgender experience.
 
Starting with this step first gives you the opportunity to build up to them learning about oppression in a way that will powerfully shape their understanding.
 
Learning the Next 8 Steps
That's just the first step in the 9-step process! While not all of the steps need to be done exactly in order, each of the steps require thought and intention.
 
We're hosting a workshop to teach parents, caregivers, and educators the full 9-step process. The workshop is exclusively available to our Little Justice Leaders Community Members. To learn more and become a member, click here. Once you join, you'll be able to attend the workshop. It's on July 23 at 6pm eastern, but it will be recorded if you can't make it live. Hopefully we'll see you there!
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