P.R.I.D.E. Fosters Positive Racial Identity for Children in Pittsburgh
The program is helping to address the growing gap between early childhood development and discussions about race and racial identity.
photos courtesy P.r.i.de.
How do parents and teachers discuss race with young children? Do they discuss race at all? What developmental issues related to positive racial identity for young children exist? These questions are what a study created by the University of Pittsburgh School of Education's Office of Child Development set out to answer.
What it found was African American children ages 3 to 8 often experience racism daily through explicit and subtle messages from individuals and institutions. When they are repeatedly exposed to these messages, they develop negative perceptions of themselves and their racial group.
The study, in collaboration with Pitt’s Center for Urban Education and the SEED Lab, identified a way to protect young African American children in Pittsburgh from the harmful effects of racism: supporting their positive racial identity development in early education.
The Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education (P.R.I.D.E.) program’s goals are to help these children develop a positive sense of their own race, which can lead to numerous benefits later in life.
“We found that while early childhood development professionals provide quality care for children, they seem to be avoiding the topic of race by and large,” says Dr. Aisha White, director of the P.R.I.D.E. program. This avoidance, coupled with communities that are interested in race but don’t adapt their programs and events to fit children, create a gap.
“There’s a need for a program that would both bring people out as a community and share information about young children and race to bridge that gap,” says White.
Some of the components and events P.R.I.D.E. provides are speaker series, pop up mini art festivals with activities that specifically address positive racial identity, Parent Village Sessions that help parents talk to their kids about hair color, hair texture, Africa and the African diaspora, and professional development contacts that are available to help organizations interested in adapting positive racial identity for their institutions.
“Despite the fact that the early childhood development field scarcely focuses on race, it’s encouraging that there’s such a tremendous interest in what we’re doing,” says White.