All the Colors We Are by Katie Kissinger is a bilingual English-Spanish picture book intended for very young children. Amply illustrated with delightful photographs of children, adults, and families, this book explains in simple language why people have different color skin.
Every child should be read this book. And while preschool is the place to start, as this is when children have not yet absorbed all of the prejudices around them, this book is just as meaningful for elementary students and middle students, high-schoolers and even adults.
After sharing the book, consider doing the following activity, which provides more opportunities to talk about skin color in a non-threatening way.
Objective: To teach children why our skin is the color that it is and to become more comfortable talking about skin color.
Grade Level: Preschool and up
Preparation: This is a painting activity. It can be done with a group or as a center. Set up a place for distributing paint. Have available: large paper plates, brushes, newspaper, tempera paint - white, black, brown, red, yellow, brown, and a way to wash hands. You also need test paper scraps and a roll of mural paper.
Procedure: After reading the book All the Colors We Are, ask students to describe the color of their skin. Point out that none of the tempera paint colors match. Demonstrate how to put small amounts of selected colors on the plate and then how to mix various skin tones. Allow students time to explore mixing the paint and testing the colors on scraps of paper. When they are satisfied with their personal color, they are to paint their palms and fingers and make a hand print on the mural paper. Have each students write their name by their hand print.
Variation: Give each participant a hand sized sheet of paper and have them make a print of their hand. When dry cut out the hand and display the hands in an interesting way.
Display the mural with a sign stating something like this:
People have different colors of skin because of a chemical in the skin called melanin. People with a lot of melanin have darker skin. People with less melanin have lighter skin. These are our skin colors. What color is your skin?
Skin Color Names? You will note that in this activity, participants were not asked to name the color of their skin. People are very sensitive about how their skin tone is described. Learn more here.