First Steps Kent Launches Equity Talks

Are they really old enough to understand? Are we putting ideas in their heads? Aren’t they naturally colorblind? Those are a few common questions parents and caregivers ask themselves – and often answer inaccurately – leading them to delay conversations about race and racism. Young children are ready to have those conversations much earlier than adults realize. Research shows babies younger than six months old recognize racial differences and children can develop biases by the time they are in preschool, associating some races with “good” qualities and others with “bad."

First Steps Kent is teaming up with a diverse group of community leaders to help adults feel more comfortable and confident in talking to kids about race as well as different cultures and family structures. Equity Talks is a series of videos aimed at empowering parents and early childhood educators to confront their own biases and teach children how to embrace those who are different than them.

The videos are conversational more than instructive and feature the perspectives of local early childhood and DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) professionals, sharing their own experiences and expertise. Many of those interviewed reflected back to when they were young children and were the target of a racial slur on the playground or when other kids were curious about touching their hair or skin or why their family spoke a different language. Highlighting real-life examples of things that happened in the past and still occur today helps parents and caregivers anticipate the kinds of questions young children have and the observations they make.

The videos will serve multiple purposes. Faculty members from Aquinas College and Grand Valley State University have been involved in the project from the start and believe the videos will be a useful tool to spark meaningful conversations amongst early childhood education students on their campuses and at other local colleges and universities. They also can be used by caregivers and other service providers so they are better equipped to help young children and their families understand and appreciate differences. They also will be available to parents, to strengthen their own understanding and help them navigate what often feel like intimidating or taboo topics with their children.

First Steps Kent engaged in the project as part of its commitment to develop a stronger and more equitable and inclusive early childhood system in Kent County.

“When you think of our role as a systems builder, this is crucial work,” said Annemarie Valdez, President of First Steps Kent. “The videos are tangible and accessible tools that support quality improvement across all organizations that serve young children and will strengthen the next generation of educators and caregivers. By highlighting Kent County’s local expertise and resources, we affirm our community’s commitment to ensuring this is a place where all young children and their families thrive.”

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