Childhood interventions can reduce racism

September 18, 2023

A systematic review by the Children’s Health Policy Centre found two childhood interventions that appear to reduce racist attitudes. Pro-refugee books, alone and when paired with classification skills training, increase positive attitudes toward refugees. As well, history lessons led to improved attitudes toward Black people and to the increased valuing of racial fairness. Notably, both interventions were relatively brief — only two hours duration. Interventions that had no impact included pro-diversity TV programming, diversity workshops and classification skills training (when delivered alone). No interventions were successful in changing children’s responses to hypothetical scenarios, and no studies assessed actual behaviours. As well, the review found no assessments of interventions that focused on reducing anti-Indigenous racism. This work is greatly needed.

Still, these results offer an important starting point. Given the success of pro-refugee books, parents, teachers, librarians and practitioners may want to invest in antiracism
reading materials with relevance for the current Canadian context. To this end, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre provides a reading list for tackling racism. As well,
the American Academy of Pediatrics  and UNICEF provide helpful antiracism guidelines and resources — suitable for differing development stages from the early years to the
teens. Similarly, the Canadian Paediatric Society offers antiracism resources for child and youth health care providers. Finally, given that teaching history has proven benefits, a recent publication aimed at adults, which could be used with youth, provides helpful information on the history of racism in BC.

For more information, see Vol. 15, No. 3 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.