The modern world is highly globalized, exposing people to a variety of different cultures. In addition, there is a global aim of achieving equality to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their culture, race, ethnicity, gender, or ability status, feel valued and treated fairly. Under these circumstances, teachers are faced with the task of developing children’s acceptance of differences. According to de Melendez and Beck (2018), one way for teachers to achieve this is to use bias-free messages and body language. For educators to be able to communicate without bias, they should be aware of their own hidden biases and stereotypes, acknowledge them, and avoid acting on them.
Another important strategy for helping young children accept their peers’ exceptionalities is responding to children’s embarrassing questions about race and culture instead of avoiding them. As Cole and Verwayne (2018) note, the topics of race and cultural differences confuse some educators and parents, which is why they resist addressing these themes in conversations with children. Yet, avoiding these topics is not an option because children will be faced with differences regardless of whether teachers and parents will talk with them about these issues or not. Children notice their peers’ exceptionalities upon observation and come to adults for explanations. Furthermore, children often reflect the attitudes they hear in their environment, for example, in parents’ conversations or on the TV. According to Cole and Verwayne (2018), teachers should be prepared to answer such children’s questions in a way that would foster friendship and a sense of community in the classroom. Any children’s biases should be addressed, and bias-free and tolerant behaviors should be acknowledged and praised.
One final way to teach children to accept differences is through children’s literature. According to Acevedo (2019), using diverse literature in the classroom is important because it provides a safe space for exploring cultural similarities and differences. Likewise, Cole and Verwayne (2018) note that diverse literature may help children recognize themselves in the book’s characters, thus inciting their interest in literature as they learn to read. Moreover, by reading and listening to books featuring diverse characters, children are likely to understand that, despite differences, all people have common human experiences such as being a child, facing a problem, belonging to a community, or spending time with their loved ones.
Acevedo, M. V. (2019). Young children playing their way into intercultural understanding. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 19(3), 375-398.
Cole, K., & Verwayne, D. (2018). Becoming upended: Teaching and learning about race and racism with young children and their families. YC Young Children, 73(2), 34-43.
de Melendez, W. R., & Beck, V. (2018). Teaching young children in multicultural classrooms: Issues, concepts, and strategies (5th ed.). Cengage Learning.