February is Black History Month. This is an opportunity for you to help
child understand the contributions
and accomplishments that African Americans have made to our society and
Appreciating any one group of people begins 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.
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 other.
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 racial divide.
If your child is an athlete, he may appreciate the story of Jackie Robinson
or Michael Jordan. A child who likes stories about explorers may appreciate
a book about Matthew Henson or Mae Jemison. The child who enjoys performing
may identify with the story of Marian Anderson or Whitney Houston. The
scientist in your family would do well to emulate George Washington Carver
or Dr. Charles R. Drew.
There is a fine assortment of story books written by such prolific childrenís
authors as Donald Crews, Faith Ringgold, Patricia McKissack, and Jerry
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
This column has been incorporated into Teach Your Children Well: A Teacherís
Advice to Parents.