When Sage and Lupine were young I would change the gender of half of the characters in their books to female. (I would still do it now but they can read and tend to correct me.)
The fact that an overwhelming majority of characters in stories are referred to in the masculine has always troubled me. (Dr. Seuss was especially hard to swallow. Nearly all characters in his books are male, including a noteworthy egg-laying hen. Humph.)
So I'd alternate gender, page after page.
Because I noticed. Because I cared. Because I believed that awareness and sensitivity on the subject of gender mattered.
As my kids got older we began to talk openly about gender, equality, sexuality, and sexism. I called out injustice when I saw it and soon my kids were doing the same.
I was raising gender-literate children.
Indeed – until recently - I rarely acknowledged race at all.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of characters in the books that we read are depicted as white, I didn't mention it.
Because, honestly, I didn't really notice.
Through the filter of being a white person living in a predominantly white community, I was largely oblivious. And I am far from alone in that uncomfortable truth.
Because we can't help but see the world through our own filters. And while my filter was female, it was also white American. And though I had worked diligently to raise gender-conscious kids, I hadn't given much thought to raising kids who were compassionate, aware, connected citizens of this diverse world.
I had dropped the ball on raising globally-minded kids and I hadn't even noticed.
Shortly after I received my copy, current events caused me to start talking openly with my kids about race, religion, culture, and privilege. As openly as we have talked for years about gender and sexual orientation.
Because our differences? It turns out they're normal. Not only that, they are worth exploring and celebrating! And they are a huge part of what makes this world so rich.
And much like gender (likely more so) our race, culture, and spirituality dramatically shape our experiences as we navigate the world.
And they're worth talking about.
Because the more we understand those we perceive as different from us (because of the language they speak, the clothes they wear, the gods they worship, or the color of their skin), the less fear we carry. And that, my friends, is vital.
All children have questions about race, religions, and cultures that are different than their own. Learning about and exploring these topics together is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to grow.
So we started having age-appropriate conversations about privilege, race, religion, and culture.
We began talking candidly talk about how different it might be to navigate the world were we in a different community or held a different belief system or had a different skin tone.
And we started reading stories from every corner of the globe, giving us a solid foundation from which to explore.
In short, we stopped ignoring culture and race and began to dig in.
And Jamie's book was – and continues to be – a wonderful resource along that path.
Jamie Martin & Family
Give Your Child the World was just the tool we needed to navigate this important journey with our children.
We began exploring the world, one region at a time through age appropriate literature. When questions would arise about a continent, religion, or country we could easily find books to share as a family.
Give Your Child the World is meticulously organized and contains information on over 600 books from around the world. The lists are organized by global region, country, and the age of your child making it quick and simple to find just what you need. The first two people I showed my copy to (a dear friend and our local children's librarian) both dashed out to buy a copy of their own that same day.
Jamie's book is an amazing resource for every parent on the path to raising bright, culturally-aware children with a deeper interest in and understanding of people from all around this amazing world.
Recently Lupine and I were reading a story at bedtime. She pointed to a character in our book. "Nanny took me to see the movie of this story. He was the only black character in the entire movie. Why do you think that is?… I'm glad there was at least one person who wasn't white in the movie. In this book all the characters are white."
In short: she noticed.
And I was so grateful.
And with that, I'm off to read to my kids about Ireland today. We're contemplating a visit some day, and I am letting this newfound passion take over our homeschool at the moment. (Thanks for making finding the books that we need for this so easy, Jamie!)
Just for fun, here's a photo of Jamie and her children along with Sage, Lupine and I a couple of summers back. I was so happy to have Jamie visit while she was on a homeschooling trip in Wisconsin. Just look at how little they were!