On April 23 Newtown High School’s SADE club along with the Friends of the C.H. Booth Library hosted a read aloud for kids in grades K-4. This event, overseen by Social Studies teacher Rachel Torres, was ran by local high school students who are passionate about creating safe spaces for all students in the Newtown Public Schools.
The book, “Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race” is a beautifully illustrated book with clear, age-appropriate language that teaches children the truth about skin color and the origins of racism in our country. It gives children the language to use when discussing the differences in people’s appearances while also explaining that the color of someone’s skin does not tell us anything about someone’s character or interests. Children were encouraged to point out pictures of kids who looked like them, look at their own skin color and share with the group what they like about their skin. The ending of the book explained that treating anyone differently because of their skin color is called racism and gave a few examples of what that could look like. Each child who registered for this event was gifted a copy of the book to take home.
After the read aloud, the 17 children from Newtown and neighboring communities were given the opportunity to engage in different art projects. These projects reinforced the lesson that different skin colors are beautiful and meant to be celebrated. At one table the children made self-portraits. They were given outlines of heads in a variety of skin hues, from peachy pink to deep brown, and were encouraged to match their skin tone. With yard for hair, markers to draw facial features and various skin-tone-colored crayons, each child who attended was able to see their race and ethnicity represented and listen to people talk about skin color in a positive way. Celebrating differences and acknowledging that each person is valued in spite of outward appearances.
Another table had puzzle pieces where kids were encouraged to draw their hobbies and interests. Children drew soccer balls, unicorns, bicycles and a plethora of other hobbies. Kids then placed the pieces together to form one larger mural. This visual representation showed all that it does not matter if one kid has olive skin and another has brown skin, both of the kids enjoyed playing soccer at recess. At other tables children were given the space to make their own social justice posters and decorate a hand to look like their own.
Overall, this event was well attended and a wonderful opportunity for both children and adults alike. It gave children the vocabulary to use when discussing race without adding any underlying shame or awkwardness that so often goes hand in hand with these discussions. It also gave the adults who brought the children the opportunity to see how simple it can be to begin these discussions with children. As our community grows in diversity it is our hope that there will be more opportunities for these discussions.