with Dorena Williamson
Twenty-eight years ago, our whole world changed with the birth of our son. As new parents, we went to great lengths to prepare his nursery, select toys, board books, and even the mobile above his crib, with the intention of developing an intelligent child. When our bright-eyed brown baby became more active, we ensured that our home was safe for crawling and first steps. As we learned that curiosity confirms healthy development, we enjoyed watching our son and later, our three daughters, explore their surroundings.
Young children bring such joy as they take in the world around them. Little fingers constantly reach out to touch and explore. A toddler grimaces after sampling a lemon’s tartness. The taste of a first birthday cupcake evokes a whole-body response of delight!
Adults play different roles in nurturing children’s early years. Grandparents sprinkle wisdom, coaches encourage ability, teachers dispense knowledge, and faith leaders guide spiritual formation.
Here are a few ways we can plant good seeds in their hearts:
Lead by example
Children are little sponges, soaking up what they hear and observing how we interact with others. Demonstrate what it means to be a good neighbor to the marginalized in our community.
Replace colorblind rhetoric with celebratory awareness
From a young age, children are taught to love colors, and they notice that people don’t look like them. Use books like ColorFull to guide children in celebrating the beautiful and different shades of our skin.
Give them language
In conversing with friends of other cultures, author Michelle Reyes suggests replacing questions like “What are you?” or “Where are you from?” with questions such as: “What are some of the special celebrations and traditions in your family?” and, “What are your ethnic roots?” Teach children that differences are good and should be approached with curiosity and respect.
Give them tools
Multicultural crayons and markers turn coloring into an opportunity to reinforce racial beauty. Books, TV, museums, and community resources offer representation that educates and inspires, sowing seeds of understanding and wisdom.
One night as I helped wrap my daughter Charis’ braids in a silk headwrap, I thought of the varied hairstyles in our home, from my short curls to another daughter’s trendy weave. I knew that black hair was not always celebrated in mainstream culture, with athletes, school children, even professional women being discriminated against because of their natural styles. Those seeds of thought eventually sprouted into my new book Crowned With Glory, a celebration of self-love and uniqueness that will give representation to children of color and inspiration to people of all ethnicities.
As a mother and an author, I know that books are a powerful tool for affirmation and learning. In our growing multicultural world, children are so blessed to interact with people from all walks of life. May we look for opportunities to nurture young hearts by planting good seeds, growing humans who live and love well in their journey of life.
Dorena Williamson | Author
Dorena Williamson writes children’s books that adults need too. She is the best-selling author of ColorFull, The Celebration Place, and Crowned With Glory. She is a stylist with Evereve, a longtime bridge-builder, and co-planter of Strong Tower Bible Church, a multicultural faith community in Nashville. She is married to Dr. Chris Williamson and they have four teenage and adult children.