To the Editor:
As described in the piece, “Want to Build a Kinder, More Inclusive School? These Students Have Ideas” (May 25, 2022), equity and diversity are contemporary issues for preschool children just as they are for high schoolers. Based on my observations of discussions in my preschool classroom, I’ve noticed that young children crave the following:
1. Truth. While high schoolers want history teachers to stop sugarcoating slavery, preschoolers want adults to stop sugarcoating reality. One of my preschoolers was injured in a shooting. When she returned, the children asked, “What happened? Can you use your words and tell us?” As her small voice described the violent act, the reading rug became a sacred space for small children to share their own stories.
2. Fair practices. Children can also discuss what they perceive to be discriminatory or unfair. Teachers can use these moments as opportunities to cultivate student thinking. For example, when one child questioned the rule about bringing toys to school, I asked him why. He responded, “Miss Laura, I want my toy, I want to have a calm body. We have to have a calm body for school, so that rule isn’t fair.”
3. For others to check their privilege. Lastly, children are interested in fair play and are mindful of privilege. For the most part, privilege for children is reflected in the access and economic status of parents. Once after spring break, a child shared stories about Disney World. Another child mentioned their mom said they couldn’t afford it, to which I replied, “You shouldn’t give up. Sometimes your goals are accomplished later in life.”
Discussions involving equity, discrimination, and privilege resonate with preschoolers. Through discussions, adults can encourage thinking while showing children positive ways to embrace inclusivity. Young children will take notice; they always have something to say.
Educator and Administrator
Red Bank, N.J.
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A version of this article appeared in the August 17, 2022 edition of Education Week as An Educator Shares Lessons on Inclusivity From Preschoolers