FAQ Discussing Race

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My children don’t see race. Why should I show it to them?
This is by far the concern we receive the most, especially from white parents. Countless studies have proven that children recognize and respond to racial differences as early as 3 months old. By 3 years old, most children choose playmates based on race (Phyllis Katz). It is natural for children to categorize people, and the easiest categories for them to rely on are visible ones -- gender, age, and, yes, skin color. While race might not have a meaning to these children, they certainly recognize differences in skin color.

When we as parents don’t actively explain to our children why most princesses and superheroes have white skin or why people with dark skin tend to be overrepresented in the poor parts of town, we leave them to create their own stories to make sense of these disparities. Maybe, your child might think, princesses and superheroes are white because white people are inherently more beautiful or powerful. Maybe, your child might think, poor people are Black and brown because they don’t work as hard. Without intervention, the stories children tell themselves can form a foundation for future prejudice that reinforces racial injustice.

What if I say the wrong thing?

This is a concern we hear often. Parents of all races are afraid to say the wrong thing, to sound ignorant, or to bring up a topic and then not have all the answers. This is particularly true of parents who feel they still have a lot to teach themselves about racial injustice before they can hope to teach their children. But as is true of most of our obligations as parents, we will never have all the answers. The important thing is that we start.

Ripple Reads was created with the express purpose of making it easy for families to discuss racial justice with young children. Beyond just recommending great books, we also pair each book with a mini-curriculum created by the experts who run the Center for Innovation in Race, Teaching, & Curriculum at the University of Texas. This mini-curriculum explains key themes and provides age-based discussion questions. The magazine included each month also shares kid-friendly activities and challenges to reinforce what you’ve read and discussed. If you do happen to say the "wrong" thing despite all of this support, we encourage you to model a growth mindset, admit you've made a mistake or don't have the answers, and commit to learning more.

I love multiculturalism, but I don’t want to talk about slavery or segregation. Can I select which books we receive?
No. We understand the impulse to shield your children from harsh truths, but we also hope that you'll push yourself to be honest about the history of slavery and segregation that shapes present racial disparities. Dr. Keffrelyn Brown, one of the two experts whose research guides our work, has conducted decades of research confirming that only when the role of race in our world is discussed and understood can we truly work toward racial justice. At Ripple Reads, we have one mission: advancing justice. We know that in order to achieve this mission, we have to provide even the most hesitant parents with all the guidance they need to confidently address tough topics with their children.