Karen Katz has taken a very child-centered and friendly approach to the discussion of skin color. We use the terms black and white but actually skin is many shades of brown. In this story, it says that Lena (7), is the color of cinnamon. Her mother is the color of French toast. As an artist, the mother is teaching Lena how to mix colors and talks about using the right brown. Because she needs to show Lena there are lots of shades of brown, they take a walk around their neighborhood. They compare the shades of skin colors they see to foods such as peanut butter, and colors such as peach. One picture shows just legs of people sitting on a bench, revealing many skin colors. Children are often very surprised by actual skin colors not being white (put a piece of white paper by the arm of a white person, skin isn’t plain white) or black. The names of the skin colors in this book are mostly names of delicious foods, leaves, or jewels. The story is affirming and inclusive of all skin colors. The freebie today is coloring pages to use with skin tone crayons.
My teacher daughter-in-law says: “This is a great book to read to young children when they are learning about portraits and they enjoy both the story and the illustrations. I recently read this book to Kindergarten and 1st-grade students during a self-portrait unit. The story was read before students worked on a self-portrait painting and I mentioned that people have different skin colors and that the students would need to select the paint color that they thought looked closest to their skin color. For this lesson, students did not mix their own paint colors like Lena does in the book, however, that would be another great approach to a self-portrait painting. Students were given four different skin tone options of paint and few chose the straight out of the bottle peach color that is really quite a bit lighter than most peoples’ true skin color. Many students compared the paint colors to their own skin color by placing their hands next to the paint or asked classmates for help in deciding which color to choose.”
The Colors of Us by Katz Free Coloring Pages
I made a set of coloring pages to give children a chance to just color using shades of brown. Being unable to find all the foods mentioned in the book, I used what pictures I found to try to convey the different shades of brown to children. It would be very fun to get a set of artist paints and just read the label names of shades of browns, or do some paint mixing. I used a set of Crayola 64 crayons and drew crayons children could color in to notice the names of shades of brown.
Here are a few sample page images. First, there is a page where children actually use some of those 96 crayons and learn some of the names for shades of the color brown. The book The Colors of Us by Katz names many shades of brown using very pleasing terms. I guess the crayon people didn’t read her book!
Happy reading, Carolyn