Establishing Connections With Your Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Children & Families
We recently received a query from a Diversity Kids follower that inspired us to write up a blog & develop a resource with tips & strategies.
When we talk about teaching children about cultural diversity and embedding it in our Services and programs to help create future ambassadors of Inclusion & Diversity, it is just as important to do this in education & care settings where there is no diversity represented and where classrooms are primarily monocultural.
Children all over the world are growing up in heterogenous and multicultural societies.
Regardless of whether they are experiencing diversity in their current circumstances or not, chances are they will in time be exposed to diversity in their wider community and future experiences. For this reason, it is important that children learn about similarities and differences and learn to respect and accept people, practices, beliefs, attitudes, cultures, abilities and experiences that are different to their own.
By teaching young children about diversity in early childhood, we are exposing them to different ways of life from an early age and encouraging them to see differences as positive, exciting and enriching opportunities and quite often as “just a different way of doing things.” This also helps build a strong sense of self, identity and self-esteem which will be carried through in later life.
As Early Childhood Teachers we are in a very influential position to embed cultural awareness, cultural competence, sensitivity to & respect for diversity, from a very early age through the programs and resources we chose to deliver and share in our education and care environments.
The ideal place to start is through enriching children’s experiences with meaningful multicultural perspectives as an integral part of all programs for young children. Even if there are only one or two cultures represented at your Service, these two are a great place to start. You may even find that once you start scratching the surface and finding opportunities to ask the right questions (for example through your enrolment forms), you may discover that families are from Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds that you were not aware of.
Another great place to start sharing culture, is through the cultural competence journey of Educators at your Services. There is value in introducing & sharing our cultures as Educators to the children & families that we’re working with. It’s all relative to embedding culture meaningfully & authentically and an excellent way to introduce culture and diversity to children within their own community.
I always like to share the example of a team in a primarily monocultural rural setting, with children & families attending, primarily from English speaking backgrounds. The staff at this Service reflected on building on their cultural competence with an innovative initial project, that had some interesting, unforeseen spin off effects with staff, children & families around cultural competence. The team were invited to include & share something important from their own family or cultural life in their staff profiles (which were displayed in the foyer and in children’s resources). Staff were also encouraged to include any languages other than English that they spoke and flag(s) representing their cultural backgrounds.
Almost immediately staff recognised similarities and explored differences with each other.
It created opportunities for conversation – to listen, to learn and understand. In response, the families of the children voluntarily started sharing what was important to their families and cultures.
Through this activity, Educators were able to unpack missed cultural information about children & families that had not been previously made available. This is turn helped Educators start building on embedding cultural perspectives in their everyday programs that were meaningful.
If your Service is monolingual, another important step we recommend is to research the cultural demographics of the local community (including local Aboriginal communities and cultures) and start implementing & embedding multicultural activities as inbuilt to the whole Service functioning on an every day basis, reflecting the diverse cultures, backgrounds, languages & religions which are represented in the local community and beyond. Such programs respect & promote all cultures, so that children from as young as 5 years have good, positive feelings about themselves and others.
We recommend that cultural programs are sprinkled everywhere, every day, all the time, across all areas of the program and curriculum, rather than setting up cultural corners or having cultural months.
There are many examples of ways diverse cultures can be embedded in the every day practices of monocultural classrooms:
Even in our monocultural classrooms, we can find ways to introduce meaningful programs that embrace and embed cultures, diversity and community. By starting early we help pave the way for future societies that are inclusive and respectful of diversity.
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