Office of Child Development Hosts Picture Book Initiative to Combat Racism

Caitlin Spear in a blue shirt

As part of the annual Books for Change initiative, the University of Pittsburgh School of Education’s Office of Child Development recently hosted a free training workshop for educators, “What’s In a Book,” focused on how educators and families can use picture books to have conversations with children about race. 

Offered through the new Division of Literacy and Learning, the virtual training session was primarily attended by teachers. Attendees also included a school librarian who wanted to gather more materials for her students and a grandmother who wanted to provide better information about race to her grandchildren. 

Caitlin Forbes Spear (pictured), director of Literacy and Learning, said it is important for adults to have conversations with children about race.

“Racism is certainly not new, but many of the racial injustices of 2020 have made more people aware. We have seen a real interest and need for adults to have these conversations with children, so we are providing support to help them do that,” said Spear.

Spear explained that although adults may want to shield children from conversations about race, avoiding the subject can actually perpetuate racism. 

“Children start to recognize skin color as babies and start to make decisions about play based on race as young as 2 years old. As kids start to make sense of the world around them, adults need to step up to talk to them about race,” she said.

The session was hosted in conjunction with the Office of Child Development’s third annual Books for Change book drive, which collected more than 1,200 books that will be distributed to more than 100 local childcare facilities.