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Now, more than ever, families need to honor their heritage. Celebrating culture through books is a great way to begin! Racism is a topic all children of color learn about at a very young age, but we need to remain united even as our country is changing. With this in mind, as parents and educators, we must teach our children of color to be proud of who they are by celebrating our accomplishments.
We found some wonderful books for elementary aged children. My son loves reading them and talking about them over and over again. Here are a few of our favorites with brief summaries and activity ideas to help you enjoy them as much as we do.
Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family Fight For Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh
Summary: In the story, Sylvia and her family move to Westminster, CA. Her parents plan to enroll her in school, but the local school does not accept dark Mexican children. Sylvia has to attend the Mexican school on the other side of town. It’s an old house on a farm converted into a school. Sylvia’s father, Gonzalo, fights for Sylvia and her siblings to attend the all white school.
Activity: I spoke to my son about key words in the book such as segregation, fairness, and petition. We talked a lot about why having separate schools is wrong and how things have changed now. We also talked about what a school for all children looks like. Then we made a diorama.
Side By Side/Lado A Lado: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez
Summary: The reader learns about the lives of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez and their contributions to unionizing farm workers. Farm workers were not getting fair and equal pay. They worked long hours, and were treated poorly by their bosses. Dolores and Cesar changed that by creating United Farm Workers and educating them on their rights as workers in the United States. The author tells the story through beautiful and realistic illustrations that make the reader a part of the story.
Activity: My son learned vocabulary words such as union, boycott, equal pay, hunger strike, and bully. We talked about the dedication needed by farm workers to pick crops and the importance of respecting and valuing these workers. We also talked about the need for equal pay. Then, my son chose a few topics that were important to him and made his own sign to use while boycotting.
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Summary: The story depicts the journey of a young mom crossing the border with her son looking for a better life. She talks about their struggles, but she also shares how happy she is to be in a place where she is free. She soon learns to speak English by reading books from the local library. The illustrations in this book are simply beautiful.
Activity: My son learned the terms immigrant, crossing the border, and dreamer. He also learned that not all families are lucky to have homes or to speak English fluently. We then talked about the importance of having resources available to us.
All these books are great tools for celebrating culture and starting conversations with our children about racism and inequality. I hope these books teach your child as much about inequality and the importance of standing up for everyone’s rights as they did for my son. Enjoy!
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