Talking about skin color is both never easy and entirely simple. Especially if you keep three things in mind.
- Any conversation is better than no conversation, so don’t worry about getting it perfect.
- One conversation is just that. One conversation, a beginning. It doesn’t have to do everything.
- Practice makes better. The more conversations you have the more natural it feels.
The Color of Us by Karen Katz ,the wonderful author/illustrator of books like Can you Say Peace and My First Ramadan is a great entryway into the conversation.
Over the years, I had read this book a number of times to my library classes before I felt comfortable enough to actually do more than a read-aloud. And I use the word comfortable loosely. I was nervous that I wouldn’t do it right, that I’d get questions I couldn’t answer, that I wasn’t an art teacher, and who was I to have these conversations.
But as soon as I read this story, asked everyone to put a hand in a circle, and started talking about the shades of color we saw, my kindergartners were eager for more. Everyone was clamoring at once. Lena, the seven year old in the story was cinnamon brown. What color were they?
Be forewarned, you should have lots of food and spice colors to use for all the various shades of your community. The first time I did this I didn’t have enough variations of white – peach, apricot, milk white, eggshell white only covered some of the ranges in our class. But everyone left proud of their new-found vocabulary as they headed off to art class where they mixed paint to match their skin.
Happy skin coloring with your child or class!