Help Curious Kids Learn to Care for Their Peers With Thoughtful Discussions & Books
I’m a white mom with white children and a white husband.
My husband and I are continually learning how to dismantle the disparities between black and white lives in our community and America. We talk about the injustices we see. We are conscious of our own actions and words. We read books and talk to adult friends and family about how racism and other justice issues.
But we haven’t really talked to our kids about it like we should. They overhear our conversations, and we mention things to them, but we’ve never brought them into big conversations about race or economic justice.
Topics like this are so hard to discuss. I certainly don’t have answers for most, if not all, of the questions they’d ask. Often it feels easier to simply hope that we can have these conversations when they are older and can understand more. Maybe you feel the same way?
GRPL’s Social Justice Book Club (September – December 2021) is perhaps the missing link that you and I need. We don’t have to know all of the answers to bring our families into important conversations. Starting where you are is the best first step.
Join the Social Justice Book Club for Kids
Social Justice Begins With Me is a free monthly book club at Grand Rapids Public Library for kids ages 4-11 that cultivates an inclusive community.
The goal is simple: allow kids to explore complex social justice topics through reading and conversation. It’s also a safe place for kids (and parents) to ask questions.
“It’s great to bring up the social justice conversations with your children,” says GRPL Youth Librarian Betsy Zandstra. “Don’t wait for the child to bring it up.”
The book club lays the groundwork for parents and caregivers to continue the conversation at home. Parents pick up tools to use in age-appropriate discussions with kids.
By referring to the characters in the books from the club, parents can help kids make connections to the world around them.
“It’s important to respect your child’s curiosity about the world by answering their hard questions,” says Zandstra. “It’s also okay to not have all the answers.”
“‘Let me think about that for awhile’ is a good response to start,” encourages Zandstra. “And (then) try to follow up with more information or seek out answers together.”
Kids Explore A New Topic Each Month, Including Gender Equity and Racial Justice
Each month, a different social justice topic is examined. Within each topic, the club selects five books to match each age category from 4 to 11. This ensures kids of all ages can have meaningful conversations in their developmental age range.
Children ages 4-8 will listen to a book read by a volunteer and discuss the month’s social justice topics in small groups.
Children ages 9-11 will read a book in advance and then discuss the book as a group.
All participants will enjoy a snack and themed craft activity.
The book club meets on Saturdays at 10:30 AM at the main branch of the GRPL. The September meeting will be outdoors, and October through December are planned to be indoors.
Past themes have included Elders, Environmental Justice, and Human Rights. The topics that will be covered this fall are also significant:
GRPL’s Social Justice & Me Book Club Topics
- September 25, 2021 – Gender Equity
- October 16, 2021 – Healthy, Happy Brain
- November 13, 2021 – Economic Justice
- December 11, 2021 – Racial Justice
Registration isn’t required, but if you choose to do, you’ll receive helpful email reminders and notification about any last-minute changes.
Additional Resources for Curious, Compassionate Kids
Your family can watch past story times that were held virtually. The page also lists useful resources to help you continue the conversation at home and beyond.
GRPL has complied a great list of kids picture books that explore race and racism. These books celebrate inclusion with a cast of diverse characters.
This is fourth year that the Social Justice Begins with Me book club has been in session. The program is a partnership between the Grand Rapids Public Library and the School of Social Work at Grand Valley State University.
It’s encouraging to see the local community walk alongside families to help us raise the best humans we can! Start the important conversations in a safe space with Grand Rapids Public Library this fall.