The importance of more stories
It has never been more important for children to learn stories. Here is why …
Two girls across the world both grew up loving stories.
One grew up in Mount Lebanon, a suburb outside of Pittsburgh, PA, that was 99.8% white. The other grew up near a university campus in Eastern Nigeria. Both were avid readers.
The American girl was trained not to “see” race; for her, being multicultural meant being colorblind. She never thought “race” had any significance to her or her family.
And when the Nigerian girl started writing stories at the age of seven, the characters in them were just like the characters in the stories she was reading. They were white with blue eyes and lived in cold, rainy climates. However, that was quite unlike where she grew up.
Both girls, working from the only stories they had, made assumptions about the world.
You are what you read
Neither girl realized the assumptions that were built into their worldview until they got older. For the American girl, this realization came during a college course on race and ethnicity. She realized that, for her whole life, she had been living 10 miles from a neighborhood that was almost 100% black and had never been in contact with it. The young Nigerian writer realized it when she discovered that a family she had always thought of as poor, actually made their living through the skill of weaving beautiful handicrafts.
Later on, both girls discovered that things they had always considered to be true – ideas like “segregation doesn’t exist in the U.S.”, or “poor people are poor because they’re lazy” – were assumptions that had come from the stories they grew up with. However, what both girls came to realize was that the stories we hear – and most importantly, the ones we do NOT – also determine what our picture of the world looks like.
How you can help share more stories
Veteran classroom educator, and One Globe Kids team member, Phoebe Mihael understands this well. She writes:
“Young children see color, hear about race, and observe how grown-ups struggle to explain what recently happened in the United States. If we do not start the conversation early, children will make up their own stories.
Anti-racism education with young kids doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, if you keep it to something as simple as knowing more than a ‘single story’, you help eliminate biases from the beginning naturally. Learning more stories feeds a child’s curiosity, empathy, and openness to others. ”
With the support of Teachers Pay Teachers, Phoebe has developed an anti-racism curriculum that draws from stories of children from around the world. You can find these lesson plans, including a free one-day unit, on the Teachers Pay Teachers website. Please visit to view, use, and share these excellent resources and support more teachers in telling the stories that the next generation – and the world – needs to hear.
The two girls from this story, grew up to deliver inspiring TED Talks about the subjects of stories, race, and ethnicity. You can find them here:
- How Can I Have a Positive Racial Identity? I’m White! Ali Michael
- The Danger of a Single Story – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The more stories you know, the more friends you can make
On the One Globe Kids website and in the One Globe Kids apps, you will find ten stories about, by, and for children around the world. Two more coming in the Spring of 2020: My Palestine – Layth and My Norway – Nora.
You will find more about why having diverse friends is good for young kids in this blog post.
Please join the Globe Smart Kids mission to share more stories and make the foreign feel familiar to kids worldwide!