Recognizing, Embracing, and Advocating for Diversity to Develop Young Children's Social-Emotional Skills: READing

Recognizing, Embracing, and Advocating for Diversity to Develop Young Children's Social-Emotional Skills: READing

A. Dean Franks (The University of Southern Mississippi, USA), Audra I. Classen (The University of Southern Mississippi, USA) and Tracey S. Hodges (The University of Alabama, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7464-5.ch007
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Abstract

In this chapter, the authors discuss how early childhood educators (ECE) can use the Recognizing, Embracing, and Advocating for Diversity (READ) framework to teach young children about diversity. Designing inclusive classrooms provides ECEs with opportunities to create an engaging and positive learning environment. This multi-layered framework, positioned by literacy practices and informed by anti-bias education and the UDL lens, promotes perspective-taking and focuses on ensuring all children have an equitable learning experience and opportunities to fully participate in all aspects of their education. By establishing the READ guidelines, the authors hope to encourage understanding of how ECEs can create classroom environments and activities that teach young children about diversity while providing them with opportunities to practice recognizing, embracing, and advocating for diversity as they grow and learn.
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Introduction

Diversity and empathy are two important concepts that children’s books may help students better understand. One way for children to develop positive views toward diversity and empathy is to be welcomed into inclusive classrooms that embrace individual differences. Narrative books provide a rich backdrop of diversity for readers to discover (Dijikic et al., 2013; Epstein, 2014; Norton, 2011; Oatley, 2012). Characters in stories offer readers an opportunity to see themselves reflected in circumstances or to connect through empathy to a particular context. Reading allows the reader to experience many different experiences through the eyes of many different character perspectives.

Presently, society is struggling to shift from a mindset of recognition to one of tolerance and acceptance (Kuh et al., 2016). In formal educational settings, children may see a progression in how they are taught about cultures and diversity (Cambpell-barr & Bogatic, 2017; Caplan et al., 2016). For as long as education has existed as a social entity, schools have recognized differences in children from race and ethnic memberships to differing abilities (Bell & Griffin, 2007). Education systems work toward acceptance as they create more inclusive classrooms (Artiles et al., 2011). Ultimately, these progressions are noteworthy, but true inclusivity only comes from embracing diversity, teaching about inequity within society and empowering children with ways to address inequalities and inequity (Kuh et al., 2016; Kendi, 2019; Grisham-Brown et al., 2017).

Here, the authors discuss how early childhood (EC) educators can use the Recognizing, Embracing, and Advocating for Diversity (READ) framework to teach young children about diversity. Designing inclusive classrooms provides early childhood education educators (ECE) with opportunities to create an engaging and positive learning environment. This multi-layered framework, positioned by literacy practices and informed by anti-bias education and the UDL lens, promotes perspective-taking and focuses on ensuring all children have an equitable learning experience and opportunities to fully participate in all aspects of their education. By establishing the READ guidelines, the authors hope to encourage understanding of how ECEs can create classroom environments and activities that teach young children about diversity while providing them with opportunities to practice Recognizing, Embracing, and Advocating for Diversity as they grow and learn. Specifically, the goals are to:

  • Describe the need for diversity in early childhood and early elementary classrooms

  • Explain the READ Framework

  • Provide examples of how to engage the READ Framework in classrooms

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Why Use Terminology Such As: Recognize, Embrace, And Advocate

The year 2020, and continuing into 2021, revealed continued discussions around anti-bias (Kuh et al., 2016), antiracist (Kendi, 2019), and inclusive (Grisham-Brown et al., 2017) education. This focus on equity, justice, and antiracist teaching is foundational to literacy instruction. Writing is a method of advocacy and prosperity, allowing a person to obtain a job, protest injustice, and share their voice for change; therefore, writing instruction should fit these characteristics. Reading is one method for children to develop a richer understanding of diverse cultures and lived experiences, but only if children are presented with high-quality books that fit these characteristics as well (Kuh et al., 2016).

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