As leaders in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education for the past 30 years, the National Inventors Hall of Fame® team recognizes the ongoing gaps in diversity among STEM fields and is committed to creating more inclusive, supportive and empowering learning environments.
By guiding children to be respectful of each other’s differences and receptive to each other’s ideas, we can not only support greater diversity in STEM but also contribute to a healthier, more equitable world.
While we continue to work in partnership with parents and educators to achieve this, we understand that many families are looking for support as they lead important conversations about race, bias and empathy with their children. Below, we’ve listed a few resources parents may find helpful.
Introducing the topic of race
Many of us find it uncomfortable and challenging to talk about race. But research shows children begin receiving explicit and implicit messages about the meaning of race and start to show racial biases by the age of 3, so it is never too early to discuss this topic. The following books can help:
- “Let’s Talk About Race” by Julius Lester
This picture book, which has been named to the New York Public Library’s “100 Titles for Reading and Sharing,” is designed to help young children celebrate our differences. According to School Library Journal, “this wonderful book should be a first choice for all collections and is strongly recommended as a springboard for discussions about differences.”
- “All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color” by Katie Kissinger
Recommended for children ages 3 to 6, this book is the 2015 winner of the Learning Magazine Teacher’s Choice Award for Children’s Books and has been a trusted resource for the past 20 years. Written by an educator and advocate for social and cultural justice for children and families, it helps children understand and build positive feelings about our many variations in skin color. Plus, you’ll find activity ideas to expand on conversations with your child.
Helping children explore their own feelings and practice empathy
While children begin to form racial prejudices early in life, studies show that explicit conversations with children about interracial friendship can dramatically improve their attitudes regarding race in as little as a single week.
Parents who have these conversations not only contribute to a healthier perspective for their own children, but they also help to create healthier environments for the classrooms, programs and social gatherings in which their children will interact with others.
These resources can help children learn to value others’ perspectives and feelings as they explore their own:
- “You, Me and Empathy: Teaching Children About Empathy, Feelings, Kindness, Compassion, Tolerance and Recognising Bullying Behaviours” by Jayneen Sanders
For ages 3 to 9, this book tells the story of Quinn, a young person who demonstrates how to show understanding, compassion and kindness toward others. The book also provides discussion questions and activities to promote empathy.
- “Questions and Feelings About Racism” by Anita Ganeri
This comforting picture book is a great tool for parents who want to help their children open up, ask questions, and share and manage their feelings in regard to subjects that can be challenging for people of all ages.
- How to Diversify Your Child’s Bookshelves from Brightly
One simple way to encourage empathy is to make sure children not only see themselves reflected in the books they read, but that they also see many others represented. This article provides some guidance for parents who would like to bring greater diversity into their children’s book collections.
Encouraging children to be problem solvers
Often, older children not only want to understand difficult issues on both personal and societal levels, but they are also motivated to be part of the solution. With these books, adults can set a positive example, encourage a problem-solving mindset and provide purposeful guidance:
- “This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work” by Tiffany Jewell
Written by an anti-bias, anti-racist educator, this book guides readers 10 and up through 20 activities that promote introspection, mindfulness and positive action. Featured by Oprah's Book Club on the Anti-Racist Books for Young Adults list curated by best-selling author Jacqueline Woodson, this USA Today bestseller is an exceptional resource for parents and children to use together.
- “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-Winning Stamped from the Beginning” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
This New York Times and USA Today bestseller, recommended for ages 12 to 17, helps readers understand the history of racist ideas and equips them to identify and address racism in their daily lives.
For more ideas and support in encouraging healthy perspectives, promoting greater inclusivity in learning environments, and guiding our next generation of creators, innovators and leaders, please visit our blog at invent.org.