Published Date: 06/06/20
When you search for daycare or preschool, you may tour and about the philosophy, approaches to discipline and teacher qualifications and ratios. You may walk through the facility and look at the artwork on the wall and assess the safety of the facility. But you may have never considered to ask about how diverse the student body is. You may have never asked if they do anti-racist work with the children in their care.
Having diversity in your child’s daycare or preschool can help frame how your children view race for years to come. Despite what many believe, several studies that show that children are not colorblind.
In 1997 researchers Phyllis Katz and Jennifer Kofkin published their study Race, gender, and young children. They found that when exposed to an unfamiliar face, infants looked significantly longer and those with a different race than those of the same race as the infant. Katz and Kofkin’s findings were consistent in six-month-olds and they say, “initial awareness [of race] probably begins even earlier.”
A 2008 study titled Children’s developing conceptions of race by Lawrence Hirschfeld found that by the time a child reaches two years of age, they use recognition of race to reason about people’s behaviors, however they do not act yet on racial differences.
Many studies have show that children develop racial bias in preschool and around age four, children show preference for white faces. They may also use race and ethnicity to categorize themselves, create social networks and include or exclude others.
A 2019 study found that early childhood education is more segregated than K-12 education. When a child is in an environment that lacks diversity there is more room for prejudices to grow. Fewer conversations about race take place in less diverse environments and children may develop biases, stereotypes, and preferences without a parent even knowing.
How can you ensure the daycare or preschool you’re considering has a diverse population and is anti-racist?
First, when you tour a daycare or preschool, observe the children - are they diverse? If the children aren’t present, look around the room and see what’s represented. Look on the bookshelf to see if the books are diverse - do they primarily feature white children? What about the dolls in the room?
Ask the childcare provider what they do to actively promote and discuss diversity. Is it limited to Black History Month or themed activities like Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday? Or, are conversations around race, diversity, and ethnicity woven into weekly activities? Do the lessons they teach come only from a white perspective?
Are the teachers diverse?
Ask what kind of training the teachers have had on teaching children about diversity. Is there ongoing professional development around race, diversity, and bias in early childhood education?
Look at the childcare provider’s website and social media pages. If stock photos are used, are they diverse? Is there any mention of diversity, anti-racism, or the Anti-Bias curriculum on their website? On their social pages?
Are resource provided to parents to aid in conversations about race with their children?
If the area you live in doesn’t have a diverse population, these conversations around race are even more important. If there are communities of color nearby, ask if the provider does anything to actively recruit families from those neighborhoods. If those areas are less affluent than yours, ask if a scholarship fund exists to help fund tuition payments.
Again, look at the bookshelf. If there are few books that have diversity, ask if the provider is willing to do an audit and replace half of them. Is the childcare provider willing to implement an Ant-Bias curriculum if it’s not already in use? Will she or he go through diversity training? Update their website if only white children are featured? Replace dolls if they’re not diverse?
While some childcare providers have always sought diversity and addressed race in their daycares and preschools, others are just coming around to the idea that it needs to be discussed at the earliest ages. Yet others continue not educate children on race or seek diversity in their programs, and it is up to parents to move the needle. Childcare providers respond to market needs. If they find parents continually asking for anti-racist early childhood education, they’ll begin incorporating it into their programs.
You can also search our site and use the philosophy filter to find providers who already utilize the anti-bias curriculum in their program.
We can all work to create diverse environments for children from the earliest ages. This, along with actively teaching anti-racism, will have a profound impact on the future.
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