My little girl is starting Grade R next year and she has all the feelings in the world about going to big school, as do I! How did we get here so fast? In many ways she is so ready for the change of scenery and has outgrown her current playschool, yet it is heartbreaking to leave such a wonderful school and special friendships that she’s built over the years.
Kira is feeling somewhat apprehensive about the new school because none of her current school friends will be joining her there and because there are, as she puts it, “so many white girls at the new school.” While we talk about race regularly and in a matter of fact way in our home, I don’t feel that we overemphasize it or put ideas in her head. Kira genuinely notices race and will point out when she is in a minority.
I know some of you might be wondering why we’ve chosen to send Kira to a school that is not yet diverse but this is a conscious decision we’ve made – not only is our chosen school a great school with small classes, but it is also situated in a convenient location (just down the road from big brother’s school) and I’m also an old girl. I just love the idea of Kira going to the school that I loved so much as a young girl and where many of my longest standing friendships first began. So yes, we’ve committed to this school with the feeling that sometimes you need to be on the inside to help be part of forging a new way forward.
For all these reasons Kira’s new teacher and I have decided to do what we can to help settle Kira in well and one of these ways is to make sure that Kira can see herself reflected in the books and toys available in the classroom. It is also equally important that her classmates have the opportunity to play with dark skinned dolls and read books where black kids take the lead. (White parents of white kids, this is a helpful article that you could take a look at to keep this conversation going.)
Thanks to a few awesome local brands, I’ve put together this little ‘diversity booster’ hamper to add to what the Grade R classroom already has. Here is a list of the products that I handed over to Kira’s teacher this week to give you an idea of what you could include should you want to do something similar:
1. Black baby doll – Checkers has a great range of affordable dark skinned baby dolls.
2. Books with diverse characters – These titles below are all from Penguin Random House, are written by local authors and are available at Takealot, Loot, Exclusive Books & Reader’s Warehouse.
How Many Ways Can You Say Hello – Book & CD by Refiloe Moahloli.
This is one of our kids’ absolute favourite books and I can’t recommend it more highly – every bookshelf should have this book.
Ricky of the River Pride by Linsay Sherrat
What on Earth is that? by Sarah Savory
Fender Goes to Africa by Veronica Lamond
3. A Dark Skinned Dolls house family – I was given this cute Victorian Doll African family from Melissa & Doug from the Toy Cabin. (Currently on sale!)
4. A Book for the teacher – Kira’s teacher expressed an interest in reading a book about adoption and so I immediately thought of ‘A Person My Colour – Love, Adoption & Parenting While White‘ by Martina Dahlmanns which I have recently read and blogged about. I can’t tell you what it means to have a teacher who is so open to understanding the complexities of adoption, we are very grateful.
I know that a ‘Diversity Booster Pack’ won’t change things over night, but it’s a baby step in the right direction. And imagine if we all started taking more baby steps in the right direction? We could reach the ultimate goal of a school that isn’t just diverse in books and toys but also includes a diverse group of kids who all feel that they belong in every sense of the word.