Today, I’ve got two favorite books to help children explore and understand various skin colors, as well as a really neat “beyond the book” art exploration inspired by one of these books. If you’ve followed along for a while, you might have seen me mention All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color by Katie Kissinger, illustrated by Chris Bohnhoff (I touched on this book in my review of All the Colors of the Earth last September and have recommended it multiple times on Instagram). We also recently added The Colors of Us by Karen Katz to our home library — and did you know that using just red, yellow, black, and white paints, you can mix up any shade of brown you like? Read on for a little more information about these books, as well as the art project that The Colors of Us inspired my girls to complete!
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All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color by Katie Kissinger, illustrated by Chris Bohnhoff — I believe this is a must-own book for both home and classroom libraries. We’ve had this book in our home library for a handful of years, and we all absolutely love it! All the Colors We Are provides children with an age-appropriate and scientific understanding of melanin and various skin colors. Because of this book, our girls have been able to talk naturally about skin color and melanin from a very young age (there’s nothing like hearing a child say, “Does your person have more melanin than me?” during an intense game of Guess Who?!). It’s also written bilingually, in both English and Spanish. Ages 3 and up.
The Colors of Us by Karen Katz — A more recent addition to our home library, Katz’s book is a celebration of the different shades of brown that makes up all of our skin colors. The main character, Lena, is painting a self-portrait, and her artist mother wants to teach her to use red, yellow, black, and white to mix the perfect shade of brown for her skin. When Lena questions her about why she needs “the right brown,” her mother shows her that there are indeed many shades of brown! As they walk around the neighborhood, they talk about the various shades of brown they see and name them all (creamy peanut butter, honey, leaves in the fall, and more!). My girls love the relatable names that Katz uses for the various shades of brown, and I love the art project that this inspired. Ages 4 -8, but great younger, too!
Now for the art project! Inspired by Lena’s mother in The Colors of Us, we pulled out our own bottles of red, yellow, black, and white paint and got to work! The girls mixed various amounts of these colors, named them, and made faces out of them. I gave little direction and few prompts other than asking questions like, “Would my skin paint need more or less black than yours?” or “What combination do you think you’d need to make your friend Suzy’s skin?” The girls had a blast mixing and naming the paints, and then when the faces had dried, we had fun adding eyes, noses, mouths, and hair.
If you’ve read The Colors of Us before, have you done the art experiment? I’d love to know how it turned out in your house!