DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — While Black History Month is coming to a close, education, particularly for youngsters, doesn’t have to.
Dormetria Thompson, former classroom educator and current Out of School Time Director for Omega Community Development Corporation, said February is a great time to open the door for conversations about diversity that can help shape the way young people see the world.
“Every movement, the backbone has always been young people,” she said. “While we know it’s Black History Month, really it’s American history that’s highlighted in the month of February.”
Thompson said allowing kids insight into the diversity of history can encourage them to create a brighter future for themselves and appreciate the experiences of those around them.
“It builds self-esteem,” she said, “and lets them know that they can do it, and lets them know that there’s nothing new under the sun in terms of issues [or] challenges.”
The first step in building those positive benefits, she said, is offering children a holistic view of Black history that extends beyond classic stories typically shared in the month of February. Thompson added parents, children and educators can work together to share stories of triumph, struggles, similarities and differences between cultures. That education, she said, doesn’t have to be boring and can even begin close to or within the home.
“Equity is super important and making sure that we’re giving our students — Black students and also white students, a better, fair picture of the vastness of our culture,” she said. “Some great examples are the African American Cultural Festival, and any other activities, whether it be a Black focus or not. [They] make a difference because it’s all about exposure.”
Other resources include the Dayton Metro Libraries and other local libraries, most of which include children’s literature sections.
Thompson added museums, including the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center can also help children understand more about the history of Black Americans leading well into the 21st century. However, Thompson said simply starting at home with a good book can be just as helpful in allowing young people to learn more about the world and people around them. Here are five books that can help children in learn expanded lessons about history and culture in the United States:
- The Story of Ruby Bridges
The year is 1960, and six-year-old Ruby Bridges and her family have recently moved from Mississippi to New Orleans in search of a better life. When a judge orders Ruby to attend first grade at William Frantz Elementary, an all-white school, Ruby must face angry mobs of parents who refuse to send their children to school with her. Told with Robert Coles’ powerful narrative and dramatically illustrated by George Ford, Ruby’s story of courage, faith, and hope continues to resonate more than 60 years later. – Amazon, $6.99
- I Love My Hair
In this imaginative, evocative story, a girl named Keyana discovers the beauty and magic of her special hair, encouraging black children to be proud of their heritage and enhancing self-confidence. – Amazon, $8.69
- All Because You Matter
A lyrical, heart-lifting love letter to Black and brown children everywhere: reminding them how much they matter, that they have always mattered, and they always will. – Amazon, $15.04
- Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer
Despite fierce prejudice and abuse, even being beaten to within an inch of her life, Fannie Lou Hamer was a champion of civil rights from the 1950s until her death in 1977. Integral to the Freedom Summer of 1964, Ms. Hamer gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention that, despite President Johnson’s interference, aired on national TV news and spurred the nation to support the Freedom Democrats. Featuring vibrant mixed-media art full of intricate detail, Voice of Freedom celebrates Fannie Lou Hamer’s life and legacy with a message of hope, determination, and strength. – Amazon, $10.59
- The Bat Boy and His Violin
Reginald loves to create beautiful music on his violin. But Papa, manager of the Dukes, the worst team in the Negro National League, needs a bat boy, not a “fiddler,” and traveling with the Dukes doesn’t leave Reginald much time for practicing. Soon the Dukes’ dugout is filled with Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach — and the bleachers are filled with the sound of the Dukes’ bats. Has Reginald’s violin changed the Dukes’ luck — and can his music pull off a miracle victory against the powerful Monarchs? – Amazon, $7.99