Toronto startup launches toolkits for raising anti-racist children
Trying to help children understand complex subjects like racism and homophobia can be extremely challenging, but it's clear that raising the next generation with a greater understanding of these issues is imperative if we're going to create a more equitable, tolerant world.
This is precisely why Toronto residents Ashley Baylen and Nicole Stamp created ByUs Box, a startup company that sells toolkits to help parents teach their children about different marginalized, equity-seeking groups.
"We noticed so many 'diversity books' have trauma narratives. The character gets bullied for gender-non-conforming interests, or they hate their own skin and hair. That means the first time a child encounters a different community, it's through a negative lens," Stamp, who is also the company's chief curator, told blogTO.
"So we teach equity through a lens that starts with positivity, so kids learn 'we're all equal' as their baseline. Then we layer on clear, direct, age-approproiate lessons about injustice, racism, homophobia — and having that equality baseline means our lessons about injustice actually land more deeply!"
Stamp and Baylen sell a variety of different of boxes, including The Black Box about anti-racism and the science of skin colour, The LGBT2SQ+ Families Box about celebrating queer families, and The Gender-Expansive Box about trans and non-binary identities.
In 2021 they'll begin selling The Indigenous Box, and they also sell progressive activity sets.
Each box contains two books, a toy, an activity, and a 20-page "learning guide" with clear conversation prompts, and there are different boxes for all different age groups.
"As a Black person, I can instantly tell if a kids book is by a Black author/illustrator, or if it's just what I call 'decorative diversity' .... where a generic character was coloured brown to fit a quota," Stamp said.
"The quality of the illustrations and the specificity of the story always give away whether a book is genuinely representing that group, or selling stereotypes," she continued.
"So our model is: Everything in the ByUs Box is created or curated by members of each group. ByUs is made by us, to dismantle bias!"
Stamp, who has more than a decade of experience in education as a host/producer/director making educational TV at TVOKids, said they conducted a focus group with 350 boxes ahead of launching this past summer and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
ByUs Box ships all throughout Canada and the U.S., and any boxes ordered before Nov. 15 will arrive by mid-December just in time for the holidays.
"Systemic racism is a huge problem, and homophobia and transphobia are incredibly dangerous and damaging! Biting our nails as we watch the U.S. election results is hammering this home — the way we've been teaching social justice isn't working," Stamp said.
"We need to raise the next generation differently! The ByUs Box is created by members of each equity-seeking community. No stereotypes, no paternalism, no appropriation. Correct terminology. Clear messaging around each community's call to justice. It's by us. We teach positive equity and our entire company works with that model."
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