October 31, 2018
October is Global Diversity Awareness month, an opportunity to celebrate our commitment to diversity and inclusion. As part of the YMCA of Metro Chicago's anti-bias literacy approach, early education teachers use books created by our students to encourage conversations in the classroom about identity, cultural competence, social justice, and topics like race, family structure, and different abilities.
We recently received this note from Michelle Herrera, an employee at the Channel Islands YMCA in California, who shares how a book created by one of our students in Chicago has helped her 5-year-old son overcome bullying and learn to be proud of himself.
I have not been working for the Y that long. I have never been a member before, and the impact that the Y has had on me and my family has been amazing. I came across “My Hair is Different,” a book that was written by one of your preschool students. I have a 5-year-old boy named Mikey who has been dealing with being bullied since daycare. My son has beautiful, long, curly hair, and it has been very difficult to explain why other kids and, even at times, adults choose to make fun of him, calling him a girl, asking him why he likes to have hair like a girl. My son has even been pushed to the floor and had a kid sit on his chest so he couldn’t move and had two other kids cut some of his hair. My son's love for school has been impacted by this and other bullying events at such a young age, it has been difficult to watch and try to explain. I have shared some of this with some of my coworkers and one of them came across “My Hair is Different.” After reading this book to my son, he understood that he was getting made fun of for a different reason, but the fact that other kids go through similar things made it easier for my son to go to school.
Seeing the difference in my son's attitude and the way he proudly walks around school with his hair blowing in his face, it’s because he has learned to be proud of himself. His hair is different, and that’s okay. I have left the choice up to my son as far as his haircuts go and now he can proudly tell me he will be okay at school, and he still wants his hair long like Thor.
I really just wanted to reach out and let you know that in a time when so many are learning how to discriminate and hate from adults in power, it warms my heart and brings a smile to my soul to know that there are still people that are showing the way to bring others together and our young children do have amazing role models to look up to. Thank you for all that you do!
You have made a difference in my family’s life, and I will never be able to thank you enough for that.