Around the world right now, we all have something in common; being kept apart. While some places around the world are starting to return to something resembling normal, there is a sense of insecurity that comes from being around other people. In the time of a global pandemic, it becomes even more important for us to teach children about our common bond as a global community. If we don’t, we risk becoming more divided than we were before COVID-19.
Older children are more likely to understand the reasons behind social distancing. However, younger children who have spent months of their lives with people who often look and talk like them, who have to wear masks when they go outside and see anyone else, might make the wrong kinds of assumptions about people who are different. There is one book that I absolutely loved to use when I was teaching preschool that deals with how differences connect us, rather than divide us.
Shades of People by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly is full of photographs of smiling young children who come from all different backgrounds, with many different variations of skin color. It points out that the crayons in the crayon box and the paints in the paint bottles are never quite the right shade to match our tones. We are all a beautiful mix of different colors and shades. Even when we come from the same family or community– we are all different. Still, we can all have fun and play together (while staying six feet apart).
We are going to have some work to do in classrooms when schools reopen. Social emotional curricula and the teaching of empathy will be even more important. Books like Shades of People are just one of the many tools that we will need as educators to address these important issues.
Identity 4: I can feel good about myself without being mean or making other people feel bad.
Diversity 6: I like being around people who are like me and different from me, and I can be friendly to everyone.
RI.3 – With prompting and support, describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.