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Monday, February 16, 2009

Messages of Diversity

Last November, my then 4-year-old daughter, Sky, took part in a mock presidential election in her preschool class. The teacher showed the kids a photograph of each candidate, told them their names, and then let them vote. I was surprised that night when Sky informed us that she voted for “John McCain, because he sure looked like he would be a good president.” She was disappointed in the morning to learn her candidate lost, and she simply wasn’t sure Barack Obama would be a good president.

Something about her reaction left me feeling a little embarrassed. But after thinking about it, I realized that John McCain was the candidate who looked like all the other presidents Sky had ever seen. She, like so many children her age, didn’t fully grasp that anyone, no matter their color or gender, could be president.

I saw an educational opportunity there. With the books I choose to share with her, I can share a message of diversity. For example, I can read The End Zone, from our “My First Graphic Novel” series, so she can see that an African-American girl can be the hero among a football team of boys. And as Sky grows, there are countless Stone Arch titles with diverse characters just waiting to capture her interest and imagination. She can read Running Rivals, a Jake Maddox book, and discover two competitors—one black and one white—who work together to improve their skills. When she picks up a Claudia book, she’ll find that despite differences in cultural backgrounds, she and the quirky character have a lot in common.

And how does Sky feel about her Mr. President now? Well, she has fallen in love with the rhythm of his name, and while she clicks to cartoons, she often pauses on the news to listen to him speak. She has definitely developed a respect for our president. But I think it’s his fashionista-wife that has truly captured her heart. She just loved that gold inauguration suit!

Julie Gassman
Senior Editor
Stone Arch Books/Picture Window Books

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