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12 Great Books to Help Students Embrace DiversityBooks on Diversity

by Dr. Samantha, C. Sweeney, Founder, Culturally Competent Kids

We all know this one from the end of the school year: “no more teachers, no more books…” So, it would stand to reason that this time of year – Back To School – is when there should be books galore. While many people (myself included) try to make sure that our little ones are reading over the summer, it is rarely as much as we would like. Chances are the amount of reading, and certainly the attention paid to it, increases significantly in early September. Therefore, this is the perfect time of year to get some new books – from the bookstore or the library. When your kids are doing their requisite ‘20 minutes of reading’ homework, having new books on hand really gets them engaged and excited.

Books are a great way to learn about pretty much anything and diversity is a great Back To School topic. Why, you ask? Well, DC is such an incredibly diverse area. DC Public Schools and the surrounding counties have students in their schools of every race, religion, and country of origin imaginable. Private and parochial schools are embracing and promoting diversity initiatives like never before. If you send your kids to school in this part of the country, diversity is unavoidable. And thank goodness! We learn so much more when we have students, teachers, and administrators who are different from us.

To help your children not only notice, but embrace all of the diversity that surrounds them, it helps to actually talk about it. Exposure to diverse individuals is wonderful, but it is not enough. Talking to your kids about the diversity that surrounds them is a must and books are a great way to get started. Below are some suggestions for kids of all ages:

For Little Ones (0-6 years old):

Ten Little Fingers & Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox & Helen Oxenbury

Say Hello! By Rachel Isadora

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch & Michael Martchenko


For School-Aged Kids (7-12 years old):

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

The Misfits by James Howe

Ling & Ting: Not Exactly The Same by Grace Lin

The Lady in the Box by Ann McGovern


For Teens & Young Adults (13 years old+):

Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

Remember Dippy by Shirley Reva Vernick

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger

Good Enough by Paula Yoo

Of course, the ages are just guidelines. Your school-aged child may still enjoy some of the books for little ones and your tween may be mature enough to read some teenage books. No matter the books you and your child pick – just keep reading! The more diverse books that you read, the more your kids will feel comfortable talking about topics like race, gender, and socioeconomic class.

And that’s exactly what you want.

For even more book suggestions and ways to talk to your kids about diversity, be sure to visit my website:

Happy Back To School and Happy Reading!

The Pokémon GO Craze: Keeping Kids Safe and Sanepokemon-go-1

From our friends at Activity Rocket


Pokémon GO has some parents excited that their kids are actually getting active while using their smartphones while others are concerned for their safety. Adults and kids alike are hunting down characters from this imaginary arena right here in the real world and it’s causing problems for some of those players.

The most obvious threat comes from people not paying attention to their immediate surroundings and becoming injured in their excitement to find and trap Pikachu or another character from this wildly popular game. But there are some other hidden threats present during game time and also some tips and tricks to avoid these problems.  READ MORE

165053369-back-to-school-jittersI Gots Them New School Jitters

6 Tips for Help Your Child Transition to a New School

by Peter Braverman, Arc Professional Development, Founder

Few transitions are as daunting as entering a new school, with the potential to exacerbate every insecurity: Will they accept me? Will they want to be my friends? Will the teacher be mean to me? Will the Head of School forget my name? Will they think I’m a dork because of the car my family owns? And, hey, that’s just the PARENTS!

Kidding aside, students often wonder how the first days at a new school will go — who doesn’t think about an unfamiliar situation with some healthy trepidation? The excitement of the adventures ahead exists side-by-side with normal kid anxieties: social pressures, intellectual demands, am I gonna drop my iPad? Here are a few tips that may help to ease the transition between mid-summer and the beginning of school around September 1.

  1. Read. I’ve never heard of a school that doesn’t want its kids to keep reading all summer, whether that’s assigned books or those your child has chosen. Titles don’t have to be high-falutin — your fourth-grader isn’t going to get much from Heart of Darkness during your beach vacation, no matter how brilliant she is. Instead, choose solid writing and exciting plots. (Um, reverse that order.) Most schools publish lists of recommended summer reading, and there are a zillion resources online. Every librarian in the world (yes, I understand some people still go to libraries, sheesh) would be happy to suggest titles. Have your kids ask their friends, too. Don’t neglect Sports Illustrated, or serious articles in Esquire or XOJane or O or Vanity Fair if your kids are older. With the decline of print magazines and more competition for “real” journalism jobs, the quality of writing has never been stronger.
  2. See a movie or eat some burritos. If your kids are older, about grades 6 to 9, offer to coordinate with the grade parents so kids can see a movie at the mall. (The school will tell you who the grade parents are.) You can also take in a minor-league baseball game, go ice-skating in the summer, have a cookout for the kids, or meet for lunch at a local favorite like California Tortilla. Most kids will love it; even those who seem to hold back are almost always grateful for being included, and everybody needs to start somewhere.
  3. Drink. (Coffee.) You can learn a lot by asking other parents to grab coffee one morning, or inviting parents and kids to a popsicle party one afternoon at a nearby park. Talk to other parents in your child’s rising grade. What do they perceive to be the tenor of the class? What do the students like? What hasn’t played well thus far? If your kids are the right ages (about K to grade 6), they’ll run around with others while the adults make ice-breaking talk.
  4. Be honest. If your child is anxious about the beginning of school, speak to the admission director, who can help teachers understand.
  5. But don’t be too honest. Once you’ve talked to somebody, back off unless the school reaches out to you. Children have to deal with the reality of school, and parents who are overly insistent on spilling everything about their children seldom benefit anybody, least of all the anxious children themselves. After 30 minutes helping the school understand your child, you’re probably helping them understand YOU. Trust them. Even if you’re wrong, your child is probably better off.
  6. Finally: LISTEN. Ask your kids what they think about the upcoming year without judgment, and let them talk. Try not to load questions with the freight of the past. Avoid questions like “What makes you really concerned?” or “Are you scared the kids will be mean like they were in your previous school?” Don’t offer your own experience — it’s not theirs. Just let your child talk, and try to reply with more open-ended questions (“Tell me more about why you feel that way”), rather than instructing (“It’s important to invite three girls to eat with you in the first week”), or offering to “fix” something. Mostly kids just want to blow off steam and to know that somebody will listen. It’s not our job as parents to adapt the world to our children, but to help them develop skills to adapt to their world. Start with school. Compared to the rest of the world, it’s pretty safe.

At the beginning of a new year, I often told parents, whether their kids were entering my school or making a transition to a new one, that we want our kids to be just a little nervous. For most (not all) kids, too much confidence is probably unjustified, and risks alienating others. Too much worry may belie other concerns, too, but in all likelihood, your children will overcome the challenge of new-school-insecurities shortly after they start, and long before you do. That’s because kids are resilient; they’re MADE to forget yesterday’s insult so they can continue to evolve with as little baggage as possible.

Now if we can just settle down as parents, we’d really have a plan here!

Peter Braverman was a school administrator in the Chicago and Washington, DC areas for nearly 20 years. He was Middle School Head and Director of High School Placement at Green Acres School in Rockville, Maryland, from 2003 to 2015. Peter recently founded Arc Professional Development, which provides various services to school parents, teachers, and administrators. Further information is online at