Teaching Children about Diversity, Tolerance, and Acceptance: A Resource Guide in Honor of Black History Month

In February each year, we celebrate Black History Month, but Black History deserves more than a month. To move forward as a diverse and successful nation, Black History needs to be integrated into classrooms to such a level that there will be no difference from the teaching of “history” and Black history. The same should be said for Latino American, Asian American, American Indian, LGBTQ, Disability History and more. With hard work, we will get to this place, where discussions on the Civil Rights movement will be more than just a section in our children’s textbooks. To reach this point, there are steps we can take at interpersonal and community levels to combat discrimination. One step in particular which has been proven effective is to teach acceptance.

To help all of us in this process, the following is a wealth of resources from experts on diversity and inclusion that can be used in schools, at home, in churches, and other social engagements.

Strategies & Guides

To avoid another Ferguson, we need to start teaching tolerance … in kindergarten

This article discusses how representation is a huge part of understanding diversity, especially seeing positive portrayals of Black men and boys from a young age. One of the keys to positive portrayals of diverse characters is to present children with literature that includes diverse protagonists.

RACE: Are we so different? - A Project of the American Anthropological Association

This museum exhibit and interactive website investigates race by way of history, lived experience, and human variation. The exhibit travels nationwide, but a virtual tour is available to anyone who wishes to experience the exhibit at home or in the classroom. With a timeline spanning nearly five centuries, the project gives insight into the ideas about race throughout history and how humans have used the concept of race to exploit or oppress. The exhibit is especially helpful for viewing race in a global context. Teachers can walk their students through each section of the site and/or make use of the teacher’s guide under the resources tab.

Useful Resources Addressing Racial Profiling by the National Education Association

These resources provide information about the past and present of racial profiling, a specific case of racial profiling that left Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old Black teenager, dead. The guide, like our recent post on Black students with disabilities, discusses the importance of recognizing current disparities in society. It goes on to discuss the importance of teaching individuals’ their rights and taking action to end racial profiling.

Diversity Toolkit

The Diversity Toolkit, also put together by the National Education Association, offers articles, resources, classroom management information, lesson plans, and advice and support for educators. Topics include cultural competence, English language learners, class and income, gender, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, and social justice.

Teacher Planet – Tolerance Guide

Teacher Planet’s guide includes lesson plans, worksheets, outside resources, and a link to a social justice webquest, an interactive online lesson and activity for students who have studied social justice and the impact of discrimination, and wish to make their voices heard via silent protest.

Recommended Books & Literature

Books by authors of color and/or about people of color can be hard to come by. This is not by chance - the Cooperative Children’s Book Center estimates that out of approximately 5,000 children’s books published in 2013, only 253 were written about people of color. The resources below will guide you in the right direction.

50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know 30 Multicultural Books Every Teen Should Know

Put together by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the School of Education, University of Wisconsin- Madison, these two lists include a selection of books by and about people of color.

People of Color Picture Books Project 

This project is a collaborative, open source effort to promote multicultural picture books. Books are well-categorized by estimated age level and ethnicity, including Indigenous and Biracial/Multiracial categories. Each book has a short description of the content. There is also a list of selected publishers that are known to value diversity in their book selections. Anyone can join the project-- if you feel you have some books to contribute, click through to add to the list!

Teaching Tolerance Storybook List – Grades Pre-K – 8

The Goodwin Holocaust Museum and Education Center put together this book list that encourages students to embrace diversity and celebrate the differences in their community. Each book is marked by grade level and accompanied by pre- and post- reading questions.

A Mighty Girl: Biographies of Women of Color  

This A Mighty Girl list provides strong role models for young students. From Emily Edmondson, a 13 year old girl enslaved in DC in the 1800s to Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban at 10 years old for being a girl on her way to school. These biographies provide inspiration for future leaders in the fight for equality.

Diversity in YA

Diversity in YA (DiYA) is not just a book list, but a blog run by Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon. The blog works to highlight authors and subjects that fall outside the mainstream. Books covered on the blog range in topic “from race to sexual orientation to gender identity and disability.” The content posted on the website is diverse in form as well, from guest posts by authors to author interviews to book lists to academic discourse on young adult fiction.

Recommended Films

10 Must Watch Black History Documentaries

These documentaries range in subject from the history that’s taught in U.S. social studies courses to the movements that are less often mentioned. The list, put together by PBS, presents a powerful variety of films which portray Black history and culture in the United States.

Groundspark - Igniting Change Through Film

Groundspark is a documentary film company that produces films to help change important issues in society. They have produced films that focus on acceptance of individuals of all gender identities and sexual orientations, as well as families of different shapes and sizes. They also have a project called Respect for All. This project focuses on social justice through acceptance and “creating schools and communities that are safe for all young people.”

Further Reading

Resources for Parents

Teaching Your Child Tolerance

KidsHealth offers a helpful introduction to teaching diversity in the United States. Tips for how to teach tolerance to your children and how to provide a positive culture for your children to learn can be found on the third page. One of my favorite tips is “Acknowledge and respect differences within your own family. Demonstrate acceptance of your children's differing abilities, interests, and styles. Value the uniqueness of each member of your family.” I love it because that’s a huge part of what Learning Differences World is all about!

How important is cultural diversity at your school?

This Great Schools article discusses how to choose a school that values cultural diversity. It also discusses how parents can contribute to the culture of respect for differences at their child’s school. Great Schools is on point when they say “schools must take a proactive approach to acknowledging diversity.”

Has your family, classroom, school, community taken a proactive approach to embracing diversity?

Teaching tolerance, embracing diversity will be key to ensuring the safety, well-being and respect that Black children, children of color, children with Learning Differences, children with disabilities, children whose families have lower-incomes, children of all religions deserve.

“We need to promote greater tolerance and understanding among the peoples of the world. Nothing can be more dangerous to our efforts to build peace and development than a world divided along religious, ethnic or cultural lines. In each nation, and among all nations, we must work to promote unity based on our shared humanity.” – Kofi Annan

What are your thoughts? Are there any resources you would recommend to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below or send us an email via our contact page!