Explaining inclusivity to kids
This interview is from A Kids Book About: The Podcast, with host Matthew Winner and co-author of A Kids Book About Being Inclusive, Rebekah Bruesehoff. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
What does being inclusive mean?
Being inclusive can be hard to understand at times, but for me, it comes down to being inclusive means celebrating everyone in all their uniqueness. And no matter how much you don't understand and are curious about their identity, you respect that and you also uplift them in that identity.
There are so many ways to be inclusive, to include others, to not cause others to feel left out.
So being inclusive can look like inviting someone to play with you on the playground when they're feeling lonely.
It can be as easy as giving someone a big smile when they enter the room, I know that makes me feel really nice.
I think also being inclusive can be something like sharing your pronouns when you meet someone for the first time, so that they have the opportunity to share theirs and feel accepted. All that.
Listeners, you’re going to hear Rebekah and I use the phrase “inclusive” over “including others” today, and that choice is deliberate. It’s on purpose.
Being inclusive of others is more deliberate than simply allowing others to be included in an activity you’re doing.
I think they're related, but I think the difference between being included and being inclusive is that being inclusive is a choice that you have to make every day. It's this conscious decision that you make to include everybody.
And, too, I think, just to make that decision, even though it may be hard, even though you may not know what that means for the day that you're making it. Just making it in the best light that you can possible so that you can go throughout your day with that sort of mindset.
Where in your life do you feel most included? When in your day do you experience inclusive spaces?
Yeah. I know, I feel included in my school, especially in my school library where I can see books that represent LGBTQ+ characters that show people that are just like me so that I know I'm not alone. Because it can be scary, can be lonely, but it's important to know that there are people out there who are just like you.
I think I also feel included when adults, especially when they give me a space to share all of my identity when they don't just want one part of my identity, when they want me for my entire self. And when I'm able to bring my entire self to the table in a conversation, it makes it more engaging, it makes it more fun.
And I make better connections that way.
Have you come up with a word or phrase for the opposite of being inclusive?
I think the easiest antonym to being inclusive is probably being exclusive. But I think in its own way, it's also being closed off.
It's not being open to other people's ideas. It's [not] being open to other people's identities.
But when you're being closed off and when you're being in that sort of shielded place or mindset, you can't be inclusive. And I think that's what makes it hard sometimes because you may not understand it and it can be hard to really have to be inclusive every day, but we do need to be inclusive everyday because it makes people happy. And that's what we want to do.
Folks don’t always mean to be closed off. In fact, some may not even be aware that their actions or attitudes are leaving others out.
I think my example for being excluded is going to be like not feeling included. It's going to have to be the same thing that I did feel included in.
It's my school. [In] my old school specifically, I didn't really feel included. I didn't see myself in the same in the books that we are reading or especially in the displays, especially during pride month. We didn't have as many, so I think the best way that I helped to change this to help me feel like I was more included was educating. So I think that meant bringing books to the table, like, just like tangible things that teachers could read or even administrators could read so that they could learn. And then they could teach my peers and my friends and me, or even just make me feel included in lessons and stuff like that because there's always work to be done.
And I think that's a really important thing to realize in all of this work—is to realize that we're always growing and you're going to be wrong. You're going to make mistakes. But part of being inclusive is realizing that you are wrong and allowing these mistakes to happen because they're going to happen.
But when you apologize, you reflect and then you change. That's how we're going to make the change in the world that we want to.
In many ways, these are universal feelings. We all, every one of us, want to feel included and welcomed and seen and valued in the spaces we step into, whether these spaces are new to us or ones we visit every day.
And when you’re in an inclusive space, you can feel it.
Yeah, I think from the moment I think about being included or feeling like someone's being inclusive towards me, I always have a smile on my face because it's a good feeling. I feel happy, I feel bubbly. I'm excited to be in the space that I'm welcomed in because I'm welcome in it. It's as simple as that.
And I think everyone should be able to feel that feeling and that's part of what inspires the book to go other places because it's something that everyone should be able to feel. And it's not that hard to make someone feel included.
When you feel included, your whole outlook changes. You feel more energy. You have more confidence. You feel supported and connected.
In A Kids Book About Being Inclusive, Rebekah and Ashton write “Another big part of being inclusive is noting who isn’t there. Who’s being left out? You have to choose to see who’s left out, then choose to include them so they feel like they are a part of things.”
So I asked Rebekah, What does it look like to ask who’s being left out?
I think it can be really hard to ask the question of who's being left out. It's definitely like a really complicated question because obviously, if you're asking a question, you're not the one being left out. But I think part of that is developing your understanding of empathy, of your connection with everybody, with the world.
So that you can realize that you can walk into other people's shoes. And when you invite the other people to the table, asking questions like who isn't here, whose input would be valuable in this situation. And that's really important because everyone's input is valuable.
When we make diverse workplaces or schools or communities, then we can build stronger connections. We can build better solutions because we invite all voices to the table because we invite all people with different strengths and weaknesses. Because if we all come from the same background, we don't have different perspectives on life and that's not how we grow…
So I think some people don't want to include others because the biggest thing is that they don't understand. That, they don't understand who people are or why they are the way they are.
I think it's a level of curiosity that ends up being hurtful. That ends up being just different [so] that you don't want somebody to be like questioning your identity in a way, but you also want to be able to explain it to them so that they can understand.
And I think that's the biggest thing because sometimes we think of people as these labels, we think of like the label transgender. When you hear that, you don't think of the people behind that label. So when you get to know somebody as a human being before you get to know them as this label, you can love them as themselves before you sort of hear the label as this sort of different thing that you put a face to it.
Making inclusive spaces and protecting inclusive spaces takes work, but is always, always worth the effort.
We close today with these final thoughts from Rebekah.
I think the easiest way to create inclusive spaces or even preserve them is to learn about and hear from, connect with, the people that this space is geared towards because they're your audience. These are the people that are actually going to be, you know, in this space. And that's the most important part is that they feel included and that you fit their needs.
But, a part of that is listening to their story because you want to understand them. You want to hear about them. You want to learn. And I think within that, we realized that a lot of these stories, they're not a one-size-fits-all. Everyone's story is different. And when we learn about that, that's how we do create these inclusive spaces.
It's how we variate spaces in a way that everyone can find their own place in the space so that they feel happy. They feel that bubbly feeling, but they're not like a single thing that everyone has to do together. There's different variations. And I think that's what makes these inclusive spaces so amazing and impactful and empowering in a way.
Each week on A Kids Book About: The Podcast, we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. This week we spoke with Rebekah Bruesehoff, co-author of A Kids Book About Being Inclusive.