My Skin Your Skin by Laura Henry-Allain MBE

This new, non-fiction book is an important resource for homes and classrooms that enable adults and children to have “meaningful discussions about race and anti-racism.” It is an empowering celebration of what makes all humans unique and promotes self-love, self-worth and self-esteem. I haven’t linked specific Values to this book: I feel schools which think they are values-based (in whatever form) should openly embrace this book and use it as a platform with which to talk about equality, love, compassion, pride and many other values.

Laura Henry-Allain, MBE, is an award-winning early education specialist. The illustrator, Onyinye Iwe is a Nigerian artist who is now living in the UK. The book has also been endorsed by notable early education specialists. There is no doubt in my mind that there was a gap in the market for such a book which is clear yet appealing and tackles race, racism and anti-racism in such a head-on way.

Talking about race and racism with children can be perceived as difficult. To what extent (and at what age) do we expose children to painful truths? How do teachers or parents who may have a different skin colour to those children they are talking to open these conversations? This book is the perfect tool for enabling questions and discussion in a factual and honest way.

The book starts off asking children to look at the differences that we have in our communities including eye colour, height, types of families etc. and encourages children to be proud of what makes them, them. It also explores definitions of ‘race’ and ‘culture’ so that children and adults use the correct terminology for what they mean. The page that bullet points what is meant by racism, with examples, is clear and factual. It is easily accessible for adults sharing the book with children or children reading it independently. The scenarios that follow, showing racist statements and actions, enable children to understand that racism can happen anywhere. It is always wrong. This message is reiterated in every scenario. Thinking of the current RSHE curriculum for primary schools, I feel there is a place for this book to be shared in every single year group: there would be no harm in revisiting it year after year.

I like the way the book is to the point and does not shy away from racism being both individual and political. It is both relatable and empathetic whilst its open questions allow for easy conversation to flow. The celebration of life is a clear theme that runs through the book and diversity is time and time again shown as positive and necessary. This is something we know as educators, but is really important for children to see in different ways. There are homes where parents do not share these views; we, as teachers, have a responsibility to challenge stereotypes and equip children to be responsible citizens of the future, regardless of the views they may hear at home. I haven’t taken this book into school yet, but I know it will be looked at curiously by many of my pupils. I am hoping it sparks conversations when I am there and when I am not.

This book should be a staple of all homes and schools. I hope I have done it justice, but I really do implore you to get hold of the book yourself as you won’t regret it. If you would like to get hold of a copy, there are many independent bookshops selling it and they can be found here.