Recently my oldest son attended a Pre-Kindergarten program to make sure he was ready to start school this coming school term. At the end of the three week long program the kids were all given a book bag and a number of books as a gift. In those books was a book entitled "The Crayon Box that Talked." As with the rest of the books I assumed it was some cute story to help get the kids interested in reading - and in part I was correct. Tonight, when I send my sons to pick out their bed time story this was the book they wanted to hear... I sat with my boys and read them this 10 or so page story about talking crayons and once I was done with it I was just in love with this story.
One thing that I preach and home to teach my children as well as others above all else is love and tolerance for your fellow man. This, however, is a subject that is more difficult than most to teach. Sure, you can tell a 5 year old that he should tolerate others, but he isn't going to have a clue what you are talking about. And you can tell them we are all the same, but at some point they are going to notice that we are in fact all different, and then think you are crazy... So how to address such an issue with children becomes a trial that many parents simply choose to face when the issue comes up, rather than prior to an issue arising.
The issue here is that as Pagans, our children are, in most cases, going to be the only ones in a class full of more mainstream beliefs. They are already "different" than other students. Now, of course most young children don't understand the idea of Christian being different than Pagan, but as we all know, their parents do, and children don't hide their belief differences - And shouldn't have to. So eventually in nearly every young Pagans school years the issue of their beliefs being different from someone elses is going to come up. If you live in an area with a number of different religions, races or cultures all meshing together, thing could be even more "in your face" than simply being different because of faith. So while EVERY parent should be teaching these lessons, I feel like Pagan parents, being an minority in most cases, need to make sure they are making a double effort.
So, back to the book... While this book doesn't ever mention race, religion or tolerance it doesn't have to. The story is about a box of crayons, each a different color. And none of them get along or like each other because they are all different colors - all different. But then, a little girl takes them home and draws a beautiful picture with them. Once they see how wonderful the picture is when all their colors come together they decide to love one another... It's a very short story, only about 10 pages. And it never seems to be more than just a cutesy story. BUT, the lesson is very clear, and one that children will love to hear over and over again - of course because they don't know they are learning anything.
It's an absolutely wonderful way to tackle a very basic, very necessary and yet rather scary topic. No one ever wants to be the parent that points out that there are black, brown, white and yellow people out there... No one wants it to be their kid that says "Hey Mommy, look a black man" or "Is that the White Guy you told me about mommy?" And we all know, when we have the "all races are equal" lesson the next time we leave the house, that's what the kids are going to want to talk about every time they see someone different walk by. And being kids don't EVER use their indoor voices for that kind of thing, it's most likely going to be an embarrassing moment for every parent at one point or another. But this book really allowed me to bring up the subject organically and approach it without having to actually spell out all the differences the other kids or people could have. Really a great addition to any child's library!