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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

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Helping kids find their place under the sun

Published Dec 6, 2021


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Teaching children the importance of diversity and uniqueness is something that needs to be done constantly, not only at school, but at home and socially as well.

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Author Mary Ellen Maunz once said, “the absorbent mind is one of the most important ideas in early childhood education. The absorbent mind makes our adult lives possible’’.

The truth of this is that each of us is a product of words that were spoken to us when we were growing up. Children’s minds are like sponges – they absorb everything happening around them. This includes the content that your child is consuming. For example, what movies, comics or books are your children watching or reading?

Take Your Place, You Belong by Karen Theunissen explores race and discrimination. The rhyming picture book tells the story of two friends from different races who each experience discrimination from their peers because of their colour. It explores themes such as empathy, heroism, friendship and identity. It is a tool to help children, parents and teachers talk about issues of race, diversity and the hurt caused by discrimination.

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From page one, Theunissen doesn’t beat about the bush. She makes it clear to the reader what the plot is about. Narrated with tenderness, it is a story about colour and discrimination.

Theunissen portrays the two main, unnamed characters well, and helps the reader understand the dynamics of race through events they experience. The author takes the reader on a short emotional ride. She does this through relatable scenarios in which the lead characters experience discrimination – such as the refusal of other characters to play with either of the lead characters due to their skin colour.

The reader’s emotions are heightened by the illustrations, done by Miriam Mathosi, which clearly depict the racial divides between the various characters.

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Take Your Place, You Belong is a book that offers suitable and healthy content for teaching young children about race and discrimination. It aims to help solve some of the problems in South Africa that stem from differences in skin colour.

The book is published by Jacana Media and is available at all major bookstores.

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