How to talk to your kids about Black History Month

Mum talking to daughter

by Chaneen Saliee |

The month of October marks Black History Month in the UK. A time when we celebrate and recognise the achievements of Black people in Britain.

With BHM being such an important topic to talk openly about with your child and/or children, Mumfluencer and owner of Chic and Discreet, Chaneen Saliee shares her tips to help us all learn more and celebrate different cultures.

It's important for children to hear about history. It's particularly important to let all children see a range of different black figures from our history. Yes, the iconic Americans but also the figures we ourselves may have to do some extra research to find. There's a book called 'Not Just Singing and Dancing' that comes to mind.

Black History Month isn’t the only time we should be talking to our kids about black history and black people. These conversations and interactions should be part of daily life, which will teach all children that black people, just like anyone else, are worthy to occupy space and time in our lives all year round. It also helps remind black children, - who have often been left feeling less than and not good enough - feel heard, seen and validated always. Most importantly, it's vital to remind children that there is a wealth of beautiful black history outside of schools in the UK and America. Having these conversations outside of school and outside of BHM is the most effective way to show them that.

For example, the history in a lot of African countries tells a vastly different story about who black people are and how their experiences are different. So you could look up African or Caribbean countries and their independence days and do some learning and celebrating around that - throughout the year.

Two great books I have been sharing with my girls recently about African history from countries other than our own are: Idia of the Benin Kingdom and Njinga of Ndongo and Matamba (Our Ancestories).

Teaching our children about Black History Month

Ways in which we can teach our children is through talking to them and helping them learn through things like reading books. We want all our children to recognise what Black History Month is, by asking them what they know already about this celebration and to check in that they know October is dedicated to highlighting this recognition so we can take what we learn and celebrate all year round.

There are now a lot of tv shows, books and toys which feature black children and families. Don’t be afraid to buy these and share these with your children in your home. It’s important for children to see themselves represented and to see others represented in a similar light.

'Children don’t naturally discriminate', says David Schonfeld, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California and Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Children learn can learn racism through subtleties, such as never seeing black people in places of prominence, as a result the views they begin to form of the world, such as, 'black people aren’t as smart as white people, that’s why there has only been one black president,' which is something a student of mine said to me during an English lesson. This is where anti racist work comes in. We have to actively shape the world around our children so they see and enjoy black people and their talents just as much as anyone else.

We love this video created by CBeebies of dads speaking with their daughters about what Black History Month means to them.

Depending on how old your child is, they might want to ask more questions about Black history or share with you some things they’ve learned outside of the home. You can introduce different cultures to your children by watching age appropriate films with them. Why not make it an event and order in some food from those cultures too.

Consuming ourselves in knowledge as adults and passing on this to our children is key to help shape the children of our future and to teach them diversity and inclusion is of utmost importantance.

We've put together some useful resources that could help your child learn more about Black history.

Activities to teach inclusion and diversity

Here are some fun ways to bring a fresh and creative perspective to Black History Month for your family.

Age 0-2

Play with toys and look at board books that show black people in a positive light. Children at this age will begin to differentiate between people’s skin colour but through play and reading they will understand that all people are treated equally.

Age 2-5

More books and play, lots of crafts and some colouring. Crayola have brought out coloured pencils and crayons in different skin tones. Try colouring in images of people using the different tones and comment on what makes each beautiful.

Age 6-10

Again, continue with books , films and playing with toys to teach inclusion and diversity. At this age, children are much more capable of understanding history and why some things happen. You can look at some books and news clippings and recreate your own posters. Or your child might like to choose their black history hero and create a fact sheet of their achievements.

At every stage it is important to encourage friendships with children and families from diverse backgrounds. Of course, always be respectful and do not force friendships if they do not feel natural. “Tokenism is the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to be inclusive to members of minority groups, especially by recruiting people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of racial or gender equality. This occurs in order to deflect accusations of discrimination or to ‘prove’ you’re not racist.” In basic terms, if it happens and feels natural then it is fine.

This compilation by Colour Celebration of 7 Books to help teach your kids about black history has a great range of book suggestions.

Colour Celebrations is also a brilliant brand that centres around celebrating children of colour. Their shop features height charts, milestone cards and clothing.

Best books to celebrate BHM

Looking for more books about diversity, racism and equality? We've put together a list of some of the best books to teach your children about diversity.

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