Young Children and Racial Justice by Jane Lane

In this definitive work on racial equality in the early years, Jane Lane has brought together all her previous work along with new thinking and ideas. This text book is not only essential reading for those involved in early childhood degrees and other related courses, practitioners, trainers and others, but it is also a vital resource for in-house training and the day-to-day situations which may arise within all types of early years provision.

The reader should not be put off by the size of the book, which is due to the huge amount of information which the book contains. The book represents a wealth of knowledge and is written in a style that is easy for the reader to dip into relevant sections for information or clarification. There are also signposts to find additional information and case studies to demonstrate important concepts. Throughout the book there are interesting ‘discussion boxes’ scattered within the chapters and as the author points out, “The wide range of issues covered should not daunt those who are in the early stages of considering racial equality” (p. 7).

This is very much a ‘How to…’ book, and it gives sound, easy-to-follow advice when it comes to tackling the different aspects of racism and prejudice and why it is important to do this. The various chapters, ten in all, are well referenced and there is also a very full appendix, plus useful addresses and contacts and a further reading list at the end of the book.

There are too many chapters to refer to in depth in this review, suffice to say they have extensive knowledge, useful historical notes, lots of ‘If you want to know’ boxes and ‘You can do’ lists. The chapters cover a number of essential areas which not only enable practitioners to enhance their care and education of the children but also relationships with parents and other carers, outside agencies, team working etc. and how all these areas can be approached from the aspect of racial equality.

The author also adds a warning note about the types of practice which is commonly seen in settings as being the answer to racial equality. Lane states that putting out ‘stand alone’ objects such as ethnic pots and cutlery in the home corner and saris in the dressing up corner are not useful in counteracting racism unless they are totally integrated into play and the curriculum in a positive way and are used by the adults and children together.

There is criticism of the provision which thinks it has tackled racism by writing a statement of intent rather than writing an equal opportunities policy and an implementation plan. There is also reference to the poor uptake of in-service training on racial equality and Lane suggests that this may be due to the general idea that “only people who are racist need training about racial equality. The fear of being called a racist may understandably be strong and foster resentment” (p. 151).

There is a very useful section relating to Travellers, Roma, Gypsies and mobile communities and how these, along with asylum-seekers and refugees are often overlooked.

My only criticism of the book is that there appears to be no celebration of what has been done to date and recognition that, whilst we may not have overcome all the issues, credit should be given for where we are today in comparison to where we started! In spite of this, Jane Lane is to be thanked for not only drawing our attention to what we have yet to tackle but for enabling us to see the best ways we can do this.

Jane Lane (2008) Young Children and Racial Justice: Taking Action for Racial Equality – Understanding the Past, Thinking About the Present, Planning for the Future

National Children’s Bureau, London

ISBN: 9781 9058 18259
Pp. 384
Price £23.99( Non-members) £19-20 (NCB Members)

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