February is Black History Month.
This is an opportunity for you to help your
child understand the contributions and accomplishments that African Americans
have made to our society and the world.
Appreciating any one group of people can begin with
the story of any one person. You know your child well enough to understand
where his interests lie. As we look at the achievements of African Americans,
you have a diversity of people from whom to choose: activists, artists,
athletes, leaders, business entrepreneurs, musicians, educators, inventors,
scientists, and explorers, to name but a few fields of work.
Every cultural group in our society has had its
triumphs as well as its struggles. If we can help children to identify with
the triumphs and struggles of any one person, they can relate more
successfully to other people -- either of that same culture, their own, or any
For that reason, I like the approach of exposing
children to the biographies and autobiographies of people whose lives can
teach them about the humanity that we share across any kind of cultural or
If your child is an athlete, he may appreciate the
story of Wilma Rudolph or Michael Jordan. A child who likes stories about
explorers may appreciate a book about Matthew Henson or Mae Jemison. The
scientist in your family would do well to emulate George Washington Carver or
Dr. Charles R. Drew.
Perhaps your child enjoys novels. This month I am
reading The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963, by Christopher Paul
Curtis, to my students. This way they will have the opportunity to hear an
enjoyable story told in a realistic setting about events that have shaped the
Civil Rights Movement in our country.
The most important aspect of this is the
understanding that we live in a society that has been created by people from
many different backgrounds. It is necessary to respect and understand those
who are culturally different from us. Celebrating the achievements of others
puts us in a frame of mind to want to make positive contributions ourselves to
the society in which we live.