My Skin, Your Skin – the new anti-racism book for children by Laura Henry-Allain MBE and Onyinye Iwu
When my daughter was born 6 years ago I thought I had at least 10 years before I would have to have any real conversations about race with her. Oh how I was wrong! She must have been about 2 and a half when she started asking me questions about why her hair is different to some of her friends and more recently she asked us why brown people are called black and why peach people are called white. A very valid question which I struggled to answer to be honest. Luckily she hasn’t experienced racism but sadly, living in the UK, it’s likely to be an inevitability at some point in her life.
So far, our conversations around race with her have been around the themes that she is beautiful, everyone is beautiful – and everyone is different and that’s OK. From a young age we’ve told her that she is loved and that her hair is amazing. We’ve surrounded her with family who look like her and it is so nice to see her with her grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins who all have the same skin tone. In the future we will be taking her to Zimbabwe, Grenada and St Vincent (where our parents are from) and we will start to have more in-depth conversations around race.
It’s not always easy to have conversations around race with children so useful resources, such as videos and books, really help. And one of those useful resources is the new book ‘My Skin, Your Skin’ written by Laura Henry-Allain MBE and illustrated by Onyinye Iwu. My first reflection on the book was how visually appealing it looks – the hardback cover, the colours and the overall design is brilliant. It’s a really warm and welcoming looking book which is really important as it’s a nice introduction to some challenging topics.
The book starts of by celebrating difference – and not just around race but also around disability, family setup and religion. And it asks the children to think about how all their friends, family and teachers are different. This is a really nice and inclusive start to the book. It then starts to introduce the concept of race, explaining the difference between race and culture and emphasising that it’s the mix of races and culture that make the world bigger, better and more exciting. The book then introduces racism, what it is, why it’s wrong, how to deal with it and how it could make people feel.
What I really like about the book is the supportive tone. There is a page in the middle of the book that shows lots of different people of different background with different jobs, like teachers, authors, ballet dancers, pilots, vets and firefighters. It’s these empowering messages and images that ALL children need to hear – to let them know that they can ANYONE, including themselves, have the potential to become these things.
The book ends with some messages about being anti-racist and another celebration about difference – highlighting what we can all learn and how our lives are made better by having friends from all different backgrounds.
It’s so important that these conversations are had with our children. And of course you as a parent will have to take a judgement based on when and where these conversations are had. My Skin, Your Skin is a really good way to start those conversations. The book is hard hitting, it doesn’t shy away from the realities but racism is a real thing that needs to be addressed early if we are going to change the world and make it a place where everybody is treated equally.
For too long we have lived and, in-part accepted, that racism exists, but it’s books like this that will help us to change that.
Written by Elliott Rae