Talking to Children About Race,
Gender, Justice, and Consent
Laleña Garcia, MEd
Founder, Rooted Kids; Kindergarten Teacher; Author; Consultant
Laleña Garcia (she/her) is a kindergarten teacher living in Brooklyn. A
graduate of Yale University (BA, History) and Bank Street College of
Education (MS, Early Childhood and Elementary Education), shes been
teaching in NYC since 2000. Laleña also works as a Gender and Sexuality
Trainer, helping early childhood professionals and families to create
expansive and supportive understandings of gender, sexuality, relationships,
and family structure. Her online course for adults, Rooted, offers contextual
background and concrete strategies for anti bias work in ECE. Laleñas first
childrens book, What We Believe was published by Lee and Low in 2020.
Twitter: @RootedKids
Laleña shares an anecdote about the kids she teaches when she asked them to list
some things all people need, and they all named having food, and a place to sleep, and
a home. “And at some point I had to ask myself, when did we as adults stop believing?
How did we get to the point where we do these mental gymnastics, where we don't
believe that all people should have a home or enough food?”
How do you answer her questions?
Laleña says it's vital to prepare children for the future by talking to them about big
ideas like race, gender, and consent from an early age, just as we talk about other big
ideas like non-violence, mathematics, and reading.
How do you talk with the children in your life about these big ideas?
Laleña offers three important tips for talking to kids about anything: 1) be honest, 2) if
you don’t know something, say you don’t know, and 3) if you feel uncomfortable,
acknowledge that.
What are some topics you are uncomfortable discussing with children?
What factors have contributed to that discomfort?”
Laleña advocates for using books as a way to initiate and normalize conversations
about topics like race.
Make a list of the books you currently use.
Which books would you like to add to your list that you plan to acquire?
Laleña says that using the words “black” and “white” to define people is a form of
laziness on our part.
What are some other ways you tend to be inaccurate/lazy when discussing topics
we are not comfortable discussing?
Laleña talks about “window books” and “mirror books.
What’s the difference and why is it important?
Laleña talks about a “family curriculum” in which children share pictures of their own
families and talk about them together.
What other ways can you think of to initiate a family curriculum?
Laleña advises us to have “the same relaxed attitude we have towards children’s
curiosity in other areas” when we talk about race or other topics that might make us
Are there topics that make you uncomfortable?
Young children can hear about difficult topics like police brutality from the news or
from their friends. Laleña suggests that we lay the groundwork of having open
conversations the children can understand, so we can also have open conversations
around these difficult topics.
What kinds of conversations are you having with the children in your life right now
that will enable you to navigate more difficult conversations down the road?
Laleña discusses how she talks to her students about consent, for example that ”It’s
everyones responsibility to make sure everyone is having fun.
How do you talk to the children in your life about consent?
Laleña says, “If a kid doesn't want to be touched, that actually is their right. We don't
get to have hurt feelings about that.
Why is this such an important thing?
Laleña talks about “restorative justice,” which is another way of saying “repairing
What is the restorative justice “script” that she discusses?
Laleña talks about the importance of listening to young children. Most spaces that
children share with adults are full of adults talking.
Are you able to be fully present in order to really listen to the children in your care?
Name some of the ways you ensure that the children in your care are listened to.
Laleña has re-written the 13 Principles of Black Lives Matter at School for young
children. You can download a PDF version by clicking on this link, and scrolling
down to the section called “13 Guiding Principles for Young Children.
If you’ve not done so already, how do you plan to introduce these principles to the
children in your life?
What are your big takeaways from this talk?
Share your thoughts about this talk in our dedicated
thread about this speaker in the private Teacher Toms
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Tom "Teacher Tom" Hobson is an early childhood educator, international speaker,
education consultant, teacher of teachers, parent educator, and author. He is best
known, however, for his namesake "Teacher Tom's Blog," where he has posted daily for
over a decade, chronicling the life and times of his little preschool in the rain soaked
Pacific Northwest corner of the USA. For nearly two decades he was the sole employee
of the Woodland Park Cooperative School, a parent-owned and operated school, knit
together by Teacher Tom's democratic, progressive, play-based pedagogy. He has
authored two bestselling books, consults with organizations about his "Family Schools
program,” and inspires early years audiences around the world at major education
conferences, both virtually and in-person.
Teacher Tom also enjoys sharing his approach through online e-courses for early
childhood educators and parents, and via international ECE conferences. In 2020, he
co-hosted the epic “The Play First Summit” with Fairydust Teaching, attracting more
than 75,000 participants from over 100 countries. This year he is thrilled to be hosting
and producing Teacher Toms Play Summit all on his own.