Early Childhood Development and Education

The developers of the Before Racism™ program have conducted extensive reviews of journal articles, book chapters, professional association publications, and other source materials related to the development and education of very young children. This process included a review of foundational work that has already been done in anti-bias education as well as research that identifies the potential impact of anti-racism programs.

This research yielded an identification of best practices as related to the education of very young children. (See The Program section of this website for more detail.) These practices—ranging from play and storytelling to constructive, explicit recognition of children’s racial and cultural differences—form the foundation of the Before Racism program. Additionally, every effort is made to ensure that the Before Racism curriculum fits naturally into the current practices of both preschool teachers and childcare center professionals.

The following resources provide in-depth investigation, analysis, interpretation, and/or application of a range of important issues including guidance regarding the teaching of anti-bias with very young children and the broader societal impact of reducing racism in the United States.

  • Derman-Sparks, L., Edwards, J. O., & Goins, C. M. (2020). Anti-bias education for young children & ourselves (2nd ed.). National Association for the Education of Young Children.
“More than ever, young children need educators who can help them navigate and thrive in a world of great diversity, educators who can give them and their families the tools to make the world a more fair place for themselves and for each other. This classic resource … is your guide to building a strong anti-bias program, including learning to know yourself.” (As taken from the NAEYC website about this publication)  

  • Friedman, S., & Mwenelupembe, A. (Eds.). (2020). Each & every child: Teaching preschool with an equity lens. National Association for the Education of Young Children.
“All educators have a part to play in advancing equity in early childhood. But what does equity look like day to day in the classroom? This thoughtfully curated collection provides concrete strategies and tips for implementing recommendations from NAEYC’s position statement ‘Advancing Equity in Early Childhood Education’ in your work with children ages 3 through 5. Featuring diverse voices from the field, this book explores practical topics ranging from examining your own biases to supporting children’s conversations about identity to preventing preschool expulsion. With these and more engaging insights, you’ll create and foster learning environments that promote equity for all.” (As taken from the NAEYC website about this publication)  

  • Paley, V. G. (2000). White teacher. Harvard University Press.
“Vivian Paley presents a moving personal account of her experiences teaching kindergarten in an integrated school within a predominantly white, middle-class neighborhood. In [the] preface, she reflects on the way that even simple terminology can convey unintended meanings and show a speaker’s blind spots. She also vividly describes what her readers have taught her over the years about herself as a ‘white teacher.’” (As taken from an online description of the book)  

“It is important that early educators view sensitive topics not as problems, but as subjects that are part of our global society. Early educators need to engage children in conversations in which to consider and share diverse perspectives. Early educators also should examine their own experiences when addressing these serious issues. This volume contains chapters that invite conversations about sensitive issues to help educators, children and families use real-life experiences to construct knowledge about their world and other people.” (As taken from an online description of the book)  

These two chapters are particularly pertinent:

    1. Addressing Race and Racism in Early Childhood: Challenges and Opportunities
      Flora Farago, Kay Sanders, and Larissa Gaias
    2. Becoming Color-Conscious: Preparation to Address Young Children’s Curiosity About Race
      Kristen M. Kemple, Michelle G. Harris, and Il Rang Lee

“The United States economy could be $8 trillion larger by 2050 if the country eliminated racial disparities in health, education, incarceration and employment, according to ‘The Business Case for Racial Equity: A Strategy for Growth.’ The gains would be equivalent to a continuous boost in GDP growth of 0.5 percent per year, increasing the competitiveness of the country for decades to come. [This] national study released … by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) and Altarum concludes that while racial inequities needlessly stifle economic growth, there is a path forward. The report projects a tremendous boost to the country’s workforce and consumer spending when organizations take the necessary steps to advance racial equity. Led by Ani Turner, co-director of Sustainable Health Spending Strategies at Altarum, researchers analyzed data from public and private sources, including the U. S. Census, Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University, Brandeis University and Harvard University. Their methodology included applying established models to estimate the economic impact of the disparities faced by people of color.” (As taken from an online description of the report)

Cognitive Science and Neuroscience

Cognitive Science

Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of how the mind works including how information is acquired and processed, how attitudes are shaped, and the manner in which an awareness and understanding of the world around us is formed.

  • Skinner, A. L., & Meltzoff, A. N. (2019). Childhood experiences and intergroup biases among children. Social Issues and Policy Review, 13(1), 211–240.
Children show signs of intergroup biases from early in development and evidence suggests that their biases increase through middle childhood. Here we critically review and synthesize the literature on the different types of childhood experiences that have been associated with increases or decreases in childhood intergroup bias. Based on the review, one type of childhood experience stands out as being reliably associated with increased intergroup bias over multiple studies—specific overt messages communicating intergroup conflict with, or negativity from, other groups. Three types of childhood experiences were found to be reliably associated with reduced intergroup bias: (a) structured intergroup contact, (b) explicit education about prejudice, and (c) imagined contact with members of other groups. We highlight the social and policy implications of this work and delineate specific experiences and interventions that might be helpful in ameliorating childhood intergroup biases. We also highlight developmental issues concerning the ways that interventions need to vary to be maximally effective at different ages. Finally, recommendations are offered on key factors to incorporate in childhood intergroup bias interventions, as well as what to avoid when attempting to design such programs due to negative (unintended) consequences. This review attempts to integrate state-of-the-art findings from developmental psychology with principles and theories in social psychology that derive from work with adults.  


Neuroscience is the study of how the brain works. In terms of its relationship to the Before Racism program, neuroscience research seeks to answer the following core questions:

    • Does the brain automatically seek affiliation with others like us?
    • What happens in the brain when we see people who are different than us?
    • How does the brain form beliefs about people?
    • Do children respond to diversity-inclusive classroom environments?

As you read these materials, keep in mind that most of the neuroscience imaging research to date has been about adult brains because the safety of neuroimaging techniques with children was not known. (The article entitled “The Neuroscience of Race” listed below is one such example of research that focuses on adults.) Currently, there are more studies with children because the latest imaging techniques are safe, so the world of understanding how and when beliefs and learning occur in children is just opening up. Although we are far from fully understanding how children’s brains develop thoughts about culture, we do know that all brains operate in a cultural context where the environment shapes brain growth. We are also sure that there is much more to learn about neuroscientific bases of cultural beliefs.

Presented here are summaries and evaluations of selected articles. These articles reflect a biopsychosocial emphasis on the understanding of cultural influences on infant and preschool populations. A special emphasis has been placed on research focused on better understanding the panhuman neurodevelopment of belief and attachment systems—that is, those mechanisms by which all humans develop the means to survive and thrive in their environments.

The studies cited are organized with a headline, authors, title, the publication in which the study appeared, a full abstract, and a link to the full text.

Do infants develop meaningful social preferences among novel individuals based on their social group membership? If so, do these social preferences depend on familiarity on any dimension, or on a more specific focus on particular kinds of categorical information? The present experiments use methods that have previously demonstrated infants’ social preferences based on language and accent, and test for infants’ and young children’s social preferences based on race. In Experiment 1, 10-month-old infants took toys equally from own- and other-race individuals. In Experiment 2, 2.5-year-old children gave toys equally to own- and other-race individuals. When shown the same stimuli in Experiment 3, 5-year-old children, in contrast, expressed explicit social preferences for own-race individuals. Social preferences based on race therefore emerge between 2.5 and 5 years of age and do not affect social choices in infancy. These data will be discussed in relation to prior research finding that infants’ social preferences do, however, rely on language: a useful predictor of group or coalition membership in both modern times and humans’ evolutionary past.

Link (Free)

As the racial composition of the population changes, intergroup interactions are increasingly common. To understand how we perceive and categorize race and the attitudes that flow from it, scientists have used brain imaging techniques to examine how social categories of race and ethnicity are processed, evaluated, and incorporated in decision-making. We review these findings, focusing on black and white race categories. A network of interacting brain regions is important in the unintentional, implicit expression of racial attitudes and its control. On the basis of the overlap in the neural circuitry of race, emotion, and decision-making, we speculate as to how this emerging research might inform how we recognize and respond to variations in race and its influence on unintended race-based attitudes and decisions.  

Link (Free)

  • Netflix®’s Babies series
“From nature to nurture, this docuseries explores the groundbreaking science that reveals how infants discover life during their very first year.”  

This series includes two seasons of 6 episodes each. Examples of episode titles include:

    • First Words
    • What Babies Know
    • Relationships
    • Nature and Nurture
    • Toddlers 

(As taken from an online description of the series)