By Tara Richter
One day at a local fast food restaurant when my son was in Kindergarten, I remember him commenting that one of his school mates was there. I looked over to where he was pointing and saw a small boy with skin different than his own.
“Which one is your friend?” I asked and wondered curiously how he would respond to describing the boy.
“That one over there Mom, the one in the blue shirt”.
Seven years later that particular moment has stuck with me about how young children see their world, see other people, and especially other children. He could have easily differentiated his friend by the colour of his skin, but he chose to comment on the colour of his friend’s shirt.
Throughout his years in school, he has been extremely fortunate to have friends from all different races, cultures, ethnicities & socio-economic backgrounds. Unfortunately, he has also been exposed to the language of racism, and fear of ‘other’ through the influence of peers, adults, and mass media, especially as seen in the campaigning of the U.S Presidential Election.
That is why I was so excited to read the book The Barefoot Book of Children by Tessa Strickland, Kate DePalma and David Dean. This beautifully illustrated book ignites the imagination and shows the many different ways children live, grow and play all over the world. I particularly liked how the book goes through different aspects of day to day life (like play, washing, eating, clothing etc.) and describes/illustrates the all the variations across the world. Through carefully crafted phrases and questions, it also invites the reader (or child) to think about their experiences relative to others. I think this is a fantastic way to teach children empathy, and let them know that how they live, is just one way among many – not right, not wrong, just different. In many ways, The Barefoot Book of Children really illustrates that while we are seemingly different in how we do many things – we really are all very similar.
While I will definitely enjoy sitting and reading this book with my little nieces and nephews, I think it is also worthy of older children and adults to read too. It can help everyone to pause and really reflect on the diversity around us and to celebrate it, rather than be afraid of it. As the authors have put it, “ The Barefoot Book of Children invites every child to step inside a story – and to tell their own”.
The Barefoot Books, founded in 1992 by two young mothers, have published more than 600 books for children that encourage discovery, compassion, creativity and global awareness. They even have an app Barefoot World Atlas with 4 million downloads and a YouTube Channel with over 70 million views.
Treat a child this holiday season to the beautiful stories and illustrations in The Barefoot Book of Children. It is sure to be one to be read over and over and spark a lot of imagination and conversation. This book can be found in most book stores and is also available online with Amazon.ca or directly from barefootbooks.com where you can also browse through their other outstanding books.