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Preventing Prejudice in Early Childhood

A unique ADL program helps preschoolers respect themselves—and people they perceive as different.

While no one is born prejudiced, research shows that by preschool age, children are already picking up stereotypes and negative attitudes toward those they perceive as "others."

That’s why ADL offers a program to help children’s first teachers—their educators, caregivers and family members—understand their own prejudices and teach children ages 3 to 5 to respect themselves and others. The program is The Miller Early Childhood Initiative of ADL’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute (The Initiative). So far, it has reached 19,500 adults having on impact on 180,500 preschoolers.

"It has been my goal, and the ADL’s hope, that every pre-school child, pre-school teacher, and pre-school family will be taught to love and not hate; to accept and not reject; to respect and not to fear our differences," says philanthropist Harvey L. Miller, founding funder of The Initiative.

It Works

Begun in 2001 with a generous grant from The Harvey L. Miller Family Foundation, The Initiative consists of anti-bias workshops and resources developed by ADL and an advisory board of early childhood experts, including Sesame Workshop. Beloved Sesame Street characters spring to life in a variety of anti-bias materials that help teachers and family members teach children to respect differences.

A study by Barry University School of Social Work conducted from 2009-2010 found that children were significantly more likely to play with children of different races after their teachers had taken The Initiative workshops. "Though the study results were positive overall, who children choose to play with is the best test you can get of The Initiative’s impact," says Linda A. Santora, ADL Director of Early Childhood Education Programs.

Says a Houston educator who participated in the program, "I will use my thoughts and words more carefully from now on, because it might hurt or discriminate against someone." A San Diego parent notes: "I have learned that I need to be careful with what messages I send about bias to my son, how to handle situations where biases come up and how to teach my son through my own example."

A Chance to Make a Difference

The Initiative is offered for little or no cost in communities where donors underwrite it. That’s why Mr. Miller encourages others to join him in funding The Initiative by calling their local ADL office or 1-866-FUND-ADL (1-866-3235).

"Children are born into this world without prejudice, but can learn prejudice as easily as the alphabet or tying their shoes," says ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman. "Getting to children as early as possible is important when you want to instill them with positive images of themselves and others."

For more information, visit The Miller Early Childhood Initaitive of ADL’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute.

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Preschoolers participating in The Miller Early Childhood Initiative of a WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute

"It has been my goal, and the ADL’s hope, that every pre-school child, pre-school teacher, and pre-school family will be taught to love and not hate; to accept and not reject; to respect and not to fear our differences."

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