My husband is black, and I am white. After we had our daughter, a lot of people asked us what we were going to tell her about her racial background. Interracial marriages are becoming more common; they've increased by 28 percent over the last decade, but many people still seem surprised to find out our daughter is biracial. When I'm out in public alone with my daughter, people often remark, "Your husband must have light eyes" or "Your baby has the nicest little tan; I was a pasty white baby." Sometimes I just smile, other times I explain our daughter's skin color, light eyes and tight curls.
Our daughter is still young, but I know people will continue to ask questions as she grows, so my husband and I have talked about what we are going to tell her. We want to be open with her and answer any questions she has while we teach her about her heritage. Our desire is to teach her that there is more to a person than skin color—that what matters most is what's on the inside, a person's heart. To do this, we are going to use books. I love reading stories with our baby girl, and I believe books are the perfect way to start conversations with children. As our daughter grows, we plan to use these five stories to teach her about her heritage and to teach her to love herself:
I Am Mixed by Garcelle Beauvais and Sebastian A. Jones
I love this hardcover book for so many reasons. The pictures are beautiful and depict real-life scenarios. The story celebrates a little boy's and little girl's uniqueness while also bringing up real issues. For example, the little girl is asked about her curly hair at school. The book ends with a family tree and a place for children to write down facts about themselves.
Black, White, and Tan by Nicole C. Mullen
This hardcover book is fun and uplifting. The story follows a little girl named Jazz, and she shares what makes her family unique. She declares at the end of the book, "I love being me!" This book celebrates individuality but also addresses our commonality as humans. It also talks about how God's family is a lot like Jazz's family, with a mixture of races and skin colors.
We're Different, We're the Same by Bobbi Kates and Joe Mathieu
This adorable Sesame Street book teaches young children about similarities and differences in the human race. It's simple to read and easy to understand. For example, the book talks about how our noses may look different, but they are the same because we all use them to breathe and sniff. This book is great for biracial toddlers or children who were adopted.
Happy to Be Me!: A Kid's Book about Self-Esteem by Christine Adams, Robert J. Butch and R.W. Alley
I used this book to teach my students about self-esteem when I was a school psychologist. This book defines self-esteem in simple terms that young children can understand. It talks about what makes us unique and how we can use our special gifts for the world. Although toddlers may love the adorable pictures, the book is geared toward elementary-school-age children.
What I Like About Me! By Allia Zobel Nolan and Miki Sakamoto
This story has bright illustrations with text that teaches children that being different is what makes everyone so special. The last page of the book has a fun mirror for children to look at themselves. Your little one will love this book, and as a parent you will appreciate the positive message it portrays.
I hope you enjoy reading these stories with your little ones as much as we do.
If you enjoyed reading about Lauren's story, please follow her journey at Heart of Deborah.