NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - It's a lesson being taught inside the walls of a classroom. A person can strive to be whatever they want no matter their skin color.
If a Nacogdoches first grader understands it, why can't we all? An African-American "read in" helped children learn the importance of self-identity Friday.
"I am a cheerleader," said Devyn Jones, a first grader at Brooks Quinn Jones.
It's the current goal for Jones. The precocious first grader and her classmates drew futuristic self-portraits under the encouragement by Stephen F. Austin State University education majors.
"What kind of skin do you have here?" asked Jacqueline Jackson, an education major at SFA.
"It is brown, just like me. Brown and black, mixed up," Jones said.
A diversity lesson with multicultural crayons let students know to embrace their own unique look.
"There are so many different shades of skin color, and the multicultural crayons are so helpful when children are making their decision," Jackson said,
They are a unique tool for discussions on race relations.
"Our children have eyes. They know I don't look like the person next to me," said Dr. Lauren Burrows, an associate professor of education at SFA. "Even in my family, there are different shades of our colors. And that's what makes me really me."
Still, children of color often perceive achievers different from themselves. There's a pretty good reason why.
"Princesses they have white people and just white people in the books that I pick," Jones said.
"As of 2016, there are about 3200 children's books published that year," Burrows said. "Of that, less than 13 percent even had black characters and of those less than 2 percent were written by a black author."
The Nacogdoches African-American read-in's primary goal is to encourage diversity in children's literature. SFA added introductions to science and engineering. The bottom line is to teach students they can reach their goals. Devyn gets it.
"You can be anything that you want to be," Jones said. "It's your life, and it's your thing."
The African-American read-in was also held at the high school, where leaders say prejudice is more evident. That's why writing is encouraged, and summer learning programs like, "the barrio writers" give students an outlet to express themselves.