GRPLS’s “Let’s Talk About Race” Story Time is the Parenting Resource You’ve Been Looking For

Let's talk about race storytime grand rapids public library

Talking to Kids About Race Simply Means Talking About Race.

It Doesn’t Mean You Have all the Answers

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 Black Lives Matter.

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.

It’s such a hard topic 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 Talking About Race program 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 the conversation on race. Starting where you are is the best first step.


Use Simple Concepts to Start the Talk About Race

How on earth do you explain 400 years of racial injustice to a 9 year old?? 

Jessica Bratt, Youth Services Manager for Grand Rapids Public Library, says you don’t have to. 

The talk about race starts small and simple. GRPL’s Let’s Talk About Race story time uses simple notions that still face the race issue head-on. 

“A baby isn’t ready to hear about slavery and violence,” says Jessica. “but babies do notice skin tone. Preschoolers understand fair and unfair and they understand feelings.”

Starting these simple, intentional conversations at this age will give your kids the tools to uphold their black and brown peers in teen years and adulthood. 

“This lays the groundwork,” says Jessica. 

Listen to Jessica’s conversation on The Takeaway titled, “White Parents Need to Talk to Their Kids About Race.”


Conversations About Race Can Start NOW, Even if Your Child is a Baby

Some things in our new COVID world are actually GOOD things. 

While families cannot gather in person for GRPL’s impactful story time about race, this year’s virtual option means that even more families can access this important topic on days that work for them. 

GRPL’s “Let’s Talk About Race” Story Time is Extended Through the End of August

Instead of making a specific storytime at a scheduled date and time, you can tune in anytime between now and August 31 to the Let’s Talk About Race story time.

GRPL just posted their first two story times, and will release a new video every Monday in July, says Jessica.


Let’s Talk About Race Story Time Gives Parents Tools to Start the Conversation NOW

I watched the first story time and was struck at how easy it was for the librarian to bring up skin tone when reading “Loretta’s Gift.” That’s all it takes. Hey, I can do that at home with books we already have! 

I think I got so hung up on having to explain the whole history of racism in America that I failed to notice nuances in our every day talks as a family that can start shaping my kids now

These impactful story times began about seven years ago when Jessica Bratt was a librarian at the Yankee Clipper branch. 

“I was doing it as my own story time to encourage parents and caregivers,” she told me. “Affirming that it’s okay to be different is huge.” 

Not only did Jessica want to affirm her patron families of color, but she wanted to provide a space for white families to address the elephant in the room, and to start these conversations young. 

“There’s a space for race talk in the library,” says Jessica. “There is a space to face our deep-seated fear that we will say the wrong thing or perpetuate these stereotypes because these conversations haven’t been normalized since we were young.”

Jessica says that it’s time we start to normalize these conversations. 

“We as a society are always telling the next generation to be inclusive but we as a society weren’t giving them any tools,” says Jessica. 

GRPL, thanks for Jessica’s vision, is giving us those tools. Pick up these tools at the Let’s Talk About Race story times, and start using them today. 


111 Library St NE, Grand Rapids MI 49503


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