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Sunday 1 April 2018

Guest Post: Kevin Christofora on A Message of Tolerance

Why is a message of tolerance is vital for kids today?

Kids today are inundated: they have access to more— technology, content, etc.— then at any other point in history. Because of this, they learn more about the world earlier than ever before. This can be a great thing, but it does have its downsides; and no, I don’t mean that children today don’t know how to connect with others because they’re so used to tablets and smartphones (though as a parent and little league coach I am a strong advocate for outdoor activities and sports). I actually mean that they can become aware of serious news stories, but because they’re so young, they have to be guided so that those world events don’t teach them harmful ideas.

I started writing a book series, The Hometown All Stars, because I’ve found that baseball can teach kids many important life lessons. I wanted to share the value of the sport I love to a wide audience of youngsters, so that they could learn about everything from healthy exercise habits to math to cooperation in a bedtime story. And while those lessons are all extremely important, they can be a little simpler to teach than concepts like tolerance and inclusion. However, it’s more important now than ever to make sure those are lessons we’re consciously teaching kids, and the earlier we begin to do so, the better.

When the war in Syria began in 2011 and refugees began to flood out of the country seeking safety, I couldn’t help but think of my 20s: fresh out of my college in my first job, I made fast friends with some coworkers of Syrian descent. They were Americans with family in Syria, so they traveled there often and I learned a lot about their values and culture. Now when I see news footage from the destruction in Syria I’m nearly moved to tears, and I can easily imagine that devastation in my own hometown. My personal experience has led me to have greater empathy for the situation, and made it really tangible that the refugees are people like the ones in my community, doing what anyone would do: seeking safety for themselves and their loved ones.

As a result, it’s difficult for me to stomach the idea that these victims of a horrible conflict are harmful. But, increasingly, that’s been the worldwide narrative. And while we can’t take the strain of the countries taking in many refugees lightly, we can and should avoid encouraging fear and intolerance of those people. 

That’s what caused me to write Amira Can Catch, about a Syrian refugee who joins the Hometown All Star team. Many children are seeing bits of news about the war in Syria, and about refugees; they aren’t necessarily hearing that there are children just like them who have lost their home, and who should get the chance to find a new one that accepts them.

Kids today might face greater challenges in learning tolerance and inclusion, so we have to do more of that work as parents and authority figures to teach them that difference isn’t something to fear. People who come from other backgrounds— cultures, abilities, religions, etc.— should be welcomed and included, whether it’s in school, on the little league team, or as neighbors in the community. We have to lead by example, be proactive, and make sure we teach kids to celebrate diversity; it’s the only way to respond to the world we live in today.

Kevin Christofora, a father and little league coach, hopes his books will inspire children to play outside more often. A devotee of America's pastime, he aims to teach young people about baseball and the habits of a healthy lifestyle in the form of a fun and educational bedtime story

He has appeared on ABC News, ESPN Radio, 660 News Radio, Santa Fe - KVSF 101.5, and WDST-FM Woodstock, and has had articles featured in 
About Families Online, KidzEdge, Mom Blog Society, and several other publications.