Welcome library professionals +
Getting started: Considering our community
Before fully developing the program content, format, and structure, we wanted to get a sense of what families wanted. We marketed a family interest survey to ascertain who was interested in the program and what they were looking for. We used this feedback to help guide our planning process. Then we created a video “trailer” to help families have a better idea of what they were signing up for.
We believe it’s important to consider the racial identities of the people participating as well as the staff leading the program. Read more about that here.
Of the 30 families who filled out the survey, 20 families then registered for the program. Half the families had at least one member who identified as BIPOC and half the families self-identified as all white members.
Consider racial affinity groups
We wanted the staff involved in leading the program to reflect the community in which we lived. We took a look at the racial identity makeup of both our larger community and the particular people who were interested in the program, and we encourage you to do the same.
Concerned about the possibility of harm to families of color, we strongly considered forming racial affinity groups for some of the workshops, led by a staff person of color. Due to staffing limitations, we did not have the capacity to create racial affinity groups. Our workaround was to pair each family with a staff liaison, being sure to pair families of color with a staff member of color. These relationships were also difficult to maintain given our other job responsibilities. When possible during the programs, at times we did create mini racial affinity breakout rooms within Zoom, always staffing BIPOC participants with a BIPOC leader.
We opened the group to families with kids in 1st through 4th grades. The materials were intended for families to do together, so if there were siblings that fell outside of that 1st-4th grade range, we welcomed them into the group as well. Based on feedback from participants and our own observations, we believe that the curriculum is best suited for kids in 2nd through 5th grade, but children as young as 3 participated; families altered activities as needed.
How often were the program workshops?
We knew that we wanted to cover a wide variety of material. When we looked at our content, staff capacity, and family interest, monthly workshops seemed best with the intention to engage with families between sessions. Families reported that monthly sessions felt like a manageable pace and that a tighter schedule of workshops would have been too difficult.
The pilot cohort met for the following over the course of 9 months:
– in-person pandemic-friendly outdoor meet & greets at a park to help build family relationships with each other as well as staff
– parent/caregiver orientation
– 7 monthly workshops for the whole family over Zoom
– post-workshop suggested activities + resources
– post-workshop feedback
– preview of workshop topic and contents a few days before each workshop
What did between-session engagement look like?
It was extremely difficult to ascertain participants’ reactions and in-program experiences over Zoom. Regardless, staff members shared observations and feedback with each other. After each session, we asked participants to fill out a Google form (customized to each workshop) with opportunities for feedback. This was key to helping us understand how families were feeling and responding, whether we were on track with both content and approach, and to help us plan the following workshop’s content and format.
Challenge: Building community
In the original family interest survey, many families reported that they were looking forward to the community-building aspect of the program. Predicting that this would be extremely difficult to do over Zoom, we planned a couple of informal meet-ups at a park to allow time for families to get to know each other.
We also created a private Facebook group for families in the program, hoping that it would become a great resource-sharing and community-building strengthener…we imagined the platform would provide opportunities for parents to connect both over conversations they were having with kids as well as a place to get to know each other and plan informal meet-ups questions, helpful links, and opportunities. Unfortunately staff did not have the capacity to fully lead that effort but we think it could be a useful tool in the future.
Challenge: Families needed different things
We were not able to meet the needs of every family. Of the 20 families initially registered for the program, 10 families consistently participated throughout the program’s duration. We reached out to families who discontinued their participation to learn more about why the program was not helpful and how we could serve them better in the future.
There was a variety of reasons why families stopped attending. As the pandemic changed, people’s availability changed; Zoom was too tough for some families (but allowed some other families to continue participating); some kids were farther along in their understanding of race and racial identity and our introductory workshops didn’t give them what they were looking for.
What if all the staff in my organization are white?
It’s essential to consider the racial identities of staff leading a program on race education.
This topic warrants more discussion than a few sentences, so check out this blog post where Dedicated to the Dream co-creator Jessica Iverson offers her experience, insights, and suggestions around this important matter.
Do you have to do all seven workshops in order?
The short answer: No, you do not. But please read the caveat! 🙂
The caveat: Back in 2020, we set out looking to design a race education-type of program where kids of color could have an opportunity to think about their own skin color in positive, perhaps counter-cultural ways – think “skin positivity.” But upon discussion, we felt that it would be erroneous and detrimental to offer the “skin positivity” experiences without acknowledging what skin color has come to mean.
In that vein, we hope that you will carefully consider the ways in which you use these materials, and that you will consider how your choices affect the balance of holding these two truths: the truth that each human is worthy of celebration, and the truth that we live in a place with a history of racist laws and that there is even today a persistence of racist ideas. We’ve put together a few options for smaller, less resource-heavy programs that we feel respect that balance, but we are sure you have your own great ideas as well, and we hope you will share them.
Content is limited in scope
We mostly touched on Black experiences with this cohort. The history of racism in America is lengthy and we weren’t able to explore the full history. We would love to be able to add on, but we will never be able to cover “everything” in a starter curriculum like this. We encourage you to use what you need from our ideas and adjust the chosen books and discussion points as needed to match your community.
We also acknowledge the importance of intersectionality; unfortunately we were not able to address the significance of multiple identities in this cohort.
It’s challenging to teach kids subject matter that involves human suffering. We seek to provide a sensitive balance between sharing the truth, which is often horrific, while at the same time showing the people experiencing oppression as whole people who are not defined only by their suffering. We also wanted to avoid harm via curricular violence. We’ve done our best to thoughtfully consider our content in this important light, but every child responds in their own way to difficult information. Please preview and alter materials as needed for your group.
Please help us grow and improve!
Reach out with comments, questions, suggestions to improve the clarity or content of the curriculum, feedback and even other resources you’ve found helpful.
Before you continue: Back in 2020, we set out looking to design a race education-type of program where kids of color could have an opportunity to think about their own skin color in positive, perhaps counter-cultural ways – think “skin positivity.” But upon discussion, we felt that it would be erroneous and detrimental to offer the “skin positivity” experiences without acknowledging and digging deeply into what skin color has come to mean.
In that vein, we hope that you will carefully consider the ways in which you use these materials, and that you will consider how your choices affect the balance of holding these two truths: the truth that each human has infinite value – worthy of celebration, and the truth that we live in a place with a history of racist laws and that there is even today a persistence of racist ideas. We’ve put together a few options for smaller, less resource-heavy programs that we feel respect that balance. We are sure you have your own great ideas as well, and we hope you will share them.
Essential: Offer resources depicting everyday diversity
Of course one of the simplest ways to provide a rich education of the wide spectrum of human experience is to choose diverse books for library displays, collections and programs. In fact, it’s important to include stories that show a diverse array of people in a variety of everyday settings and situations and don’t focus only on oppressive experiences of marginalized people.
Idea: Introduce concept of mirrors, windows, + doors. In our first workshop, we introduce Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s concept of mirrors, windows, and doors in books and movies. If you’re not familiar, click here for the original article. This genius analogy provides a way for us to interact with each other’s experiences in validating ways and sidesteps the possibility of dismissing other’s experiences and feelings. One cool thing is that one person’s mirror is another person’s window or door.
Small bite: Purchase and display Grant Snider’s “Books Are…” poster. Choose a few of the prompts from Grant’s poster to write on blank posterboards, one prompt per posterboard. Then invite patrons to choose a sticky note and write the title of a book that filled a particular niche in their lives that matches the illustration. Ask them to place their stickies on the appropriate poster. Or, provide printouts or a link to our kid-friendly version of an explanation to mirrors, windows, and doors (poster coming soon!).
Idea: Explore and understand skin tone. One of the barriers to talking about race starts with discomfort around acknowledging skin tone. To understand and then spread the truth about race and racism, let’s start with examining our own skin tone first. Be sure to watch this short video where one of our program creators Cozbi A. Cabrera explains our intent.
Small bite: In Curiosity Lab 2, kids and their grown-ups learn how to mix paint to match their skin tone alongside master artist Cozbi A. Cabrera in a series of instructional videos. Once participants have experimented enough to create a shade that “reminds you of you,” as Cozbi says, participants mix up a larger batch and use it to create art. We also offer several ideas for exploring skin tone and identity through words. Curiosity Lab 3 involves watching a video we created that explains the biology behind skin tones and ultimately the false narrative of distinct races that has been constructed. Then participants work together as a family to create and construct a hanging mobile that states truths about humanity.
How it could work as a stand-alone program: While we have not tried this, we envision that Workshops 1 and 2 could be combined into a 2-ish hour program with a snack and movement break in the middle.
What if we simply don’t have the staff to present any of this in our organization?
Our curriculum is available for families to do on their own, so you could advertise the program with our flyer (click for the printable pdf).
If you were able to go one step further than that, you could also provide materials and/or that go with each workshop to execute a “self-guided with help” experience.
Idea: Offer an opportunity for parents and caregivers to connect, learn, and support each other
Small(ish) bite: Create a multi-month book club for parents and caregivers that is part book club – part support and learning group for the self-guided workshops that families would complete on their own.
What it could look like: Choose an adult book about race (any of the ones we’ve suggested would be great, or use your own favorite). Parents and caregivers could engage in a brief discussion about the book. Then spend part of the session debriefing Curiosity Labs that families last completed and previewing the next session.
If your organization was able to go one step further than that, you could also provide the materials that go with each workshop to execute a “self-guided with kits” experience.
What other ideas do you have?
We hope that as you look at the curriculum, you’ll consider how you could take small bites to offer race and culture education in your community.
We hope you’ll choose to share your ideas with us!