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Can childrens books fight racism? – Sarasota Herald

Yes, but they must be books that reflect the diversity of all communities and affirm the identities of all children

Can buying a book combat racism?

It can, when the characters look like the current population.

Pediatrician Jacqueline Dongé agrees.

She’s among the authors of a recent American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report that explicitly names racism as a health determinant that has a “profound impact on the health status of children.”

READ MORE: See more stories about early childhood development and grade-level reading

Racism is linked to lower birth weight in newborns and to double the maternal mortality rates among black mothers — often caused in part by maternal stress.

Consistent exposure to racism creates a stress response in the body. Prolonged exposure to stress hormones lead to inflammation and increases the risks of developing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

A disproportionate number of black children receive more than one out-of-school suspension in preschool, and in kindergarten through grade 12 are suspended three times more than white students, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

And the list goes on.

How can the simple act of buying a book address the issue?

“Children are watching and listening to us. When we offer the gift of literature to promote reading in children, we also send messages about what and whose stories are important,” said Dr. Maria Trent, professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and first author of the AAP report.

And like any threat that puts the health of millions at risk, pediatricians are turning to numerous strategies to help inoculate children from the lifelong harms of racism. Including books.

“When you see someone who looks different from yourself, it opens up conversations. Parents can answer questions about ‘why does she look different?’ and start to address bias at an early age,” Dongé said.


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