Through culture, children gain a sense of identity, a feeling of belonging, and beliefs about what is important in life, what is right and wrong, and how to care for themselves and others. When children are raised only in their home culture, they learn those lessons almost effortlessly. But when they spend some of their formative years in child care with people who were not raised in their culture and who do not necessarily share the same family and community values, the learning of those important early lessons becomes more complex. That is the condition that many young children are now experiencing in the United States, as cultural diversity in child care is becoming the norm.
This guide is written to assist infant/toddler care teachers in becoming more culturally responsive. It is intended to help teachers (1) better understand themselves and how they are influenced by their own cultural beliefs, (2) better understand the children and families they serve, and (3) learn a process for relating to cultural issues in a way that will help them become more effective teachers. The entire guide is based on three unifying themes that recur throughout the text:
• Cultural diversity is good and enriching for everyone.
• Cultural responsiveness is an ongoing process that continues to develop over time.
• Support of a child’s full participation in his or her home culture is vital to optimal