THE CONVERSATION) In a Cambodian children’s folktale, one man is afraid of lawyers and another is afraid of filth. As the story goes, both are constantly bombarded by their fears despite their efforts to avoid them.
The moral of the tale is revealing and contains a powerful anti-racism message: What you hate becomes your fate.
As an educational linguist and a psychologist who specialize in children’s literacy development, we know that reading such folktales about people from different ethnic groups reduces prejudice in young children.
By age 4, children learn stereotypes against certain groups of people, and by age 7, children of color internalize stereotypes. Research suggests that reading stories about a person’s own culture has many benefits, including literacy achievement.
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