In the past, schools exposed children to the same concepts year after year. In October, we methodically decorated pumpkins. In November, we fashionably dressed up as Indians or Pilgrims and had some sort of “traditional feast.” However, many schools are making the leap forward by going beyond pumpkins and turkeys. They are embracing diversity with celebrations like Dia De Los Muertos, Diwali, Chinese New Years, and much more.
In 2011, I was enthusiastically surprised to learn that the Kids are Readers Too (KART) Foundation announced “It’s Time for Holi!” as a book list winner for the early elementary grades (Kindergarten-3rd grade). The KART foundation aims to expose children to new books each year that have “age-appropriate content that are memorable and enhance the gift of learning as a child grows.”
The South Jersey Children’s Literary Festival Selection Committee (made up of educators, parents, professionals) chose 32 books from over 1,000 submissions. The committee members that selected this book were able to accept Holi as a festival that all children could learn from and celebrate. For me, this award also meant that I was able to fulfill my vision for the book: that all children would learn about and embrace the festival of colors! Many children will naturally want to welcome the warmer weather by throwing and playing with colors.
Teachers are already teaching children about colors and seasons. By incorporating this festival, teachers could easily reinforce concepts they are already teaching while simultaneously exposing children to new concepts, new vocabulary, and new cultural celebrations! In addition, the book is correlated to the common core standards.
Researchers and scholars also maintain that there is a critical need for children to learn how to interact with one another in a culturally diverse environment. It has been predicted that by the year 2020, students of color will comprise 40 percent of the public school population. This year, I hope that all teachers and parents will go beyond pumpkins and turkeys to broaden the minds of children and to provide them with opportunities to critically understand the diverse perspectives of others.