Talking with Your Child About Race and Equality

“Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles; Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances. Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it. Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.” Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Perhaps in your family you have regular and on-going talks about race, injustice, dreams, and making a difference; maybe you struggle with knowing how to talk to your children about issues or how to have difficult and honest conversations. Maybe your own experiences or discomfort get in the way of those conversations or you are just not sure what to say. Talking with young children about race and identity issues can feel daunting for parents and even educators. We want to provide you with a few resources that address why we should start or continue these conversations and some suggestions to help you along the journey, especially as we celebrate Martin Luther King’s life and legacy on Monday.

Corey Turner shares on NPR how we are doing with talking about social identity, “Why All Parents Should Talk With Their Kids About Social Identity”. You can read or listen here:

According to the article, "Kids Are Missing a Crucial Piece of History": How to Talk About Martin Luther King Jr. With Your Children”: 


The questions his actions, and especially his death, elicit can be tricky to navigate, though. How, after all, do you explain to a child who is constantly told to follow the rules that Dr. King was right when he chose to break federal law and encouraged others to do the same? And what words can you draw upon to help young minds wrap themselves around the kind of hate it took to kill Dr. King, who simply wanted our country to treat all of its citizens equally?


From Carey Wallace’s Time Magazine article, “How to Talk to Your Kids About Martin Luther King Any Day of the Year”, we learn the Director of Education at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Institute at Stanford University recommends asking questions around the same issues. You might ask your children, “How do you feel when you are left out?” or when someone says “You can’t play.” She suggests that parents have conversations about what is fair and unfair. Here are more suggestions to help you:

Ijumaa Jordan, an early childhood education consultant provides, “Do’s and Don’ts for Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day with Young Children”:

NPR has additional help in “Talking Race With Young Children” including not waiting for them to bring it up:

To add to your home libraries or to check out at your local library and our school, here are Martin Luther King books for preschoolers and elementary students: 

Finally, if you have not watched or heard Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered at the March to Washington in 1963 in a while, we encourage you to do so:


Sharing in his dream,

Corinne Kamiya, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator