Searching for a Decolonised Childhood – Resources for Young Children

The following resources are intended for parents, carers, educators and everyone who takes an interest in decolonising educational resources for children. The list has been compiled by Sapna Agarwal for an Upending conversation on the 9th of July 2020, hosted by Enough! Scotland with support from the Centre for Human Ecology.

This list of resources is for young children aged 18 months – primary school age. We will cover resources for older children and teenagers in subsequent blog posts.

Event Synopsis: Creating a decolonised environment for children to grow up in is not straightforward, especially given that most of us have been socialised within a white supremacist, patriarchal context. This conversation examined the importance of narratives that don’t perpetuate the dominant, capitalist, post-colonialist worldview, looking at examples of helpful and damaging resources available and sharing ideas of how to use your existing materials to promote critical analysis in children of all ages. Brought to you with humility and an understanding that working towards decolonised parenting is not a linear progression, that we are all learning all the time and how much we can learn from each other. You can watch the full talk here.

Sapna Agarwal is a community activist, parent and long-term home educator. She is the founding member of Glasgow’s longest running home education group, a non-hierarchical, all ages, social group based on mutual respect and support. She is also a partner at Aye-Aye Books, a radical bookshop based in the CCA, Glasgow. She initiated the children’s section there which stocks books featuring children under-represented on the high street and in mainstream media.

For Little Children – 18 months +

The following are all board books, ideal for very young children. Issues are not dealt with but there is good representation – little children living their lives.

Daddy, Papa and Me – Leslea Newman

Mommy, Mama and Me – Leslea Newman

Let’s Feed The Ducks – Pamela Venus

Rosa Rides Her Scooter – Jessica Spanyol

Books for 3 years+

A Snowy Day – Ezra Jack Keats. A beautifully illustrated, gentle tale of a young, black child enjoying a snowy day.

Want Toast – Anna Wilson. A young, mixed race child desperately trying to get her sleepy mums out of bed to make her some toast early in the morning

Handa’s Hen – Eileen Browne. A sweet and joyful counting book. Handa goes looking for her grandmother’s hen and meets many other animals along the way

Handa’s Surprise – Eileen Browne. Handa is taking a basket of fruit to her friend as a gift but all sorts of mischievous animals disrupt her plans

We All Went on Safari – Laurie Krebs. A counting book set in the Tanzanian grasslands. The Massai children are all named and counting is done both in English and Swahili

Julian is a Mermaid  – Jessica Love. Julian shares his dreams of being a mermaid with their beloved abuela  who helps them fulfil their dream. Gorgeous illusatrations!

And Tango Makes Three – Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. The true story of two gay penguin in a New York zoo who are given the opportunity to sit on an egg and become a family of three

The Great Big Book of Families – Mary Hoffman. Families of all shapes and sizes are celebrated in this lovely book

Books for 5 years+

Mama Panya’s Pancakes – Mary Chamberlin. Adika goes with his mother into to town to buy food from the market. Along the way they meet many friends and Adika invites them over to share pancakes at his house later that evening. The power of community is explored here.

Backyard faeries – Phoebe Wahl. Phoebe Wahl’s illustrations are deliciously detailed as the world of the backyard faeries is investigated. Some of these faeries have brown or black skin, a rare treat for any child of colour who has never seen a faery (o any other delicate, magical creature) that looks like them.

Sonya’s Chickens – Phoebe Wahl. Sonya is gifted three tiny chicks and needs to look after them but the natural world presents some threats that she needs to come to terms with. Sonya is from a very nurturing, mixed race familiy

King and King – Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland. The crowned prince is required to marry but none of the princesses that offer their hand stir any feeling in him. But he eventually finds his true love and is married. The couple are known as King and King and live happily ever after

10,000 Dresses – Marcus Ewert and Rex Ray. Bailey dreams regularly of magical dresses but wakes every morning to find they are a boy and no one wants them to talk about their dresses. However, they come to meet an ally who listens to them and helps them find the joy of dresses in the daytime too.

Hot Hot Roti for Dada-ji – F Zia. Aneel’s grandparents have come to visit from India bringing tales of daring and adventure with them. Aneel connects with his Dada-ji over hot roti and notices the parallels in their childhoods.

The Happiest Tree – Uma Krishnaswami. An Indian-Amercian child who struggles to keep still in the school play takes up yoga at her local Indian store and comes to feel more grounded.

A is for Activist – Innosanto Nagara. A board book and an ABC book but more appropriate for 5yrs+ than babies. Each letter describes an aspect of social justice activism. And there’s a little black cat to look for on each page.

Ruby Nettleship and the Ice Lolly Adventure – Helen Docherty. Ruby Nettleship’s local playpark only has broken equipment but the stick from a magical ice-lolly takes her on a marvellous adventure that changes everything. A mixed race child having brilliant, colourful fun.

Where’s Jamela, What’s Cooking, Jamela and Jamela’s Dress – Niky Daly. The Jamela books are set in a township in South Africa. Jamela lives with her mum and is very well meaning but is forever getting into scrapes. The whole community play a part in her upbringing and zhosa words pop up throughout the book.

Not so Fast Songololo – Niky Daly. A black boy in South Africa helps his Gogo get into town on the bus and we are party to their different view points.

Farmer Falgu Goes on a Trip, Farmer Falgu goes to the Market, Farmer Falgu Goes to the Kumbh Mela, Farmer Falgu Goes Kite Flying – Chitra Soundar. Farmer Falgu overcomes disaster time and time again in these gently stories set in Rajastan.

Film and TV Programmes for young children

My Neighbour Totoro. Many of the Studio Ghibli films are great for young children. The characters tend to be Japanese, tend not to privilege capitalist values and eschew heteronormative ideas about friendship.

Sesame Street. A long time bastion of excellent representation in children’s television.

Queer Kid Stuff. A five minute programme for young children introducing different ideas in queer culture from learning your LGBTQs to dealing with homophobia and other social justice issues. There’s usually a song sung by presenter Lindsay and their best friend Teddy (a teddy bear). It’s fun but manages to deal with serious issues in a very age appropriate manner. Available on youtube

Radical Cram School. This is a child-centred series, available on youtube, that focuses on empowering Asian American girls but also all children of colour to embrace their identities and fight for social justice. It’s only five or ten minutes long. More relevant to children in USA but still valuable to watch from the UK.

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