The Skin You Live In
"Mama, is my skin like yours?"
My daughter asked me this while looking at her hand under the microscope at the Children's Museum a couple weeks ago. It came completely out of nowhere for me, but it was clear she had been thinking about it for a while. We talked about how yes, her skin was very light like mine. We also talked about daddy and her brother had slightly darker skin. We talked about eye color and nose shape too. She seemed happy enough with this answer, so I let it go for a while. Then she asked me again a couple days later. We pulled out our WHY book (which is a fabulous one to own for moments like this) and read the section on Why Are People Different Colors? We looked at the big Little Passports map on the wall and talked about where our great grandparents came from and where the equator is located.
During quiet time I went on the library's website and searched for some more titles about skin color and found our crayola skin tone crayons that were buried in the bottom of our crayon bucket.
Prepare a spot for each child with a mirror, a piece of paper, and a selection of crayons. I offered primarily skin tones (Crayola has an awesome collection of skin tone art materials) but other colored crayons were also available.
We started by reading two books I found at the library about skin tone. Both are wonderful for preschoolers.
Shades of People by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly
(find it online)
The photography in this book is stunning. Beautiful images of children and families in every color, shape and size. I love the vocabulary, such as copper, almond, creamy, ivory, that is used to describe skin tone. The general idea of the book is that people come in shades, "not colors, exactly, but shades" and it is well executed throughout the book. 2+
The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler
(find it online)
The outstanding Chicago Children's Museum helped make this book possible and their enthusiastic understanding of children shines through the pages. Michael Tyler describes how we live in our skin as we run, hop, and play. His rhythmic, rhyming text goes on to say that our skin does not define us. I love his phrase, "the skin you live in, so beautifully holds the "you" who's within." Csicsko's lively illustrations mirrors the energy of the text and playfully depict the message of uniqueness and diversity. 3+
Next invite your students to draw pictures of people at the table. You can be more specific if you want. Both books would work well with beginning of the year self portraits. You could ask them to draw a friend or their family.
I left both books we read on the table. The photos in Shades of People especially captured the attention of our twins. Listen to their observations and conversations. I did not force the conversation or the direction of the art (as you can see from the mostly green person my son drew) but I did ask a couple of questions about the colors they chose to draw the conversation back towards skin tones a few times. For example, "What shade of color do you see in the mirror?" and "Tell me about why you chose that brown." I liked the vocabulary in Shades of People and I think crayon color names are awesome, so I also read the names of the shades they chose for their pictures. The person below has olive green skin, salmon colored arms, burnt orange and sea blue hair - in case you were wondering.
Books Reviewed Below
Large Collection of Crayons
*Provide other skin tone art materials in your art area.
*Repeat this activity with Multicultural Paint.
*Make sure that your book collection includes titles like Beautiful Rainbow World and others that include diverse faces.
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