African American history resources for pre-school
September 29, 2017 9:47 AM   Subscribe

My kid (4.5, boy) goes to a Montessori pre-school that is pretty darn positive, but not perfect. He learns a great deal and is happy there. Last year in this same school I was sort of bummed that they didn't really do anything around African American history month or Martin Luther King, Jr. Day so this year I signed up (parents are asked to volunteer to help with a unit they care about or have interest in) to do one, presumably in February, or maybe late January. How can I not do this badly?

I am white and so is my son. None of his classmates or teachers are African American, but they're also not all white and we live in a fairly diverse and multicultural area. The teachers were happy I signed up to do this.

I am unconcerned about being awkward in front of 4 and 5-year olds. But I want to make this useful and interesting. I figure they're going to hear brief bios of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King in other places (this might be a bad assumption), so I was kind of interested in talking about either something broader or more specific (maybe involving current events, but that seems fraught).

Any tips or links to interesting resources? To be clear, we are talking about 20 minutes on one day and maybe the teachers will take prompts from the kids to do some additional projects based on things the kids are interested in, not a curriculum or something in-depth.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly to Education (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
4 or 5 is an age when kids learn subliminally (well, they always do). There will be Black History month for 12 years of school, with Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Find videos, books and music that feature Black performers in a positive way. This is Miles Davis playing amazing jazz music. This is Nina Simone. This is Aretha, the Queen of Soul. Misty Copeland is an amazing dancer, let's try to stand on one foot. Can we learn to moonwalk like Michael Jackson? You library can help you. Think about playing James Weldon Johnson's "Lift Every Voice and Sing" often referred to as the "Black American National Anthem".
posted by theora55 at 10:13 AM on September 29, 2017 [15 favorites]

This past winter, I got the book The Youngest Marcher from the library to read to my 3.5yo. It says ages 5+ on the Amazon page, so appropriate age range for you. I'd suggest reading that book and talking about the questions it raises.

A recommended book with that is We March which I have not read, but it looks like it could be a nice corollary.
posted by jillithd at 10:14 AM on September 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

There's a nice ABC book called 'A is for Activist' that might be a good place to start also, this might be too advanced, but my kids love flash cards, and a very nice set of Black History flash cards just came out from Urban Intellectuals.
posted by bq at 10:48 AM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I can strongly recommend When the Beat Was Born, Laban Hill's award-winning for-children biography of DJ Kool Herc, the man who invented rap music. It's a nifty little book that would easily lend itself to a multimedia/participatory presentation.
posted by Dr. Wu at 12:21 PM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can do far more at home. Be more conscious about buying/borrowing books and watching shows/movies with positive images of diverse people. I see a different list of resources pop up on social media every day. I linked to a few here.

As far as the preschool, you can speak with the teachers/director about introducing greater diversity into the books that are made available to the children. I would probably let them take the lead in choosing those that are most appropriate developmentally, but if cost is an issue, donate some money.

A 20 minute lesson is nice, but it might be better to encourage the school, in addition to having greater diversity in books, to also consider curricular activities that have more diverse components. Again, let them take the lead - they're educators and they know what they're doing. They probably just need a nudge.
posted by k8t at 12:35 PM on September 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I am concerned about focusing on entertainers, which could give the message that that's the only area African-Americans can excel in.
posted by maurreen at 8:43 PM on September 29, 2017

Safety Pin Box Kids -- activities for kids to learn about race written by women of color.
posted by freezer cake at 9:33 AM on October 2, 2017

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