Persona dolls can be a valuable resource when working with young children. Available in a range of skin tones to represent various ethnicities, they can be used for storytelling in small groups or whole class circle time to help identify and confront racial issues and to develop empathy and understanding of issues faced by children who are considered different in any way by their peers. The doll can become a regular visitor to the group and used to help tackle real issues faced by children in the group in a “third party” non-threatening way. When you start working with a Persona doll and a group of children, it’s important to create a personality that’s believable and to give him/her a background story, preferably with visual cues. The doll will become a member of the group, and because he/she is new to the children, introducing the doll along with a photo album helps the children to engage. Using the Persona doll to help children to develop empathy, we can introduce questions and ideas, early in the story, that stimulate discussion and thought and can help develop problem solving skills. “How might Shada feel?” “How can we help Shada?” “What can Shada do?” When there was a war in Shada’s country, her family ran away from Iraq and came to England, where they would be safe. They had to leave some of their family behind. How do you think Shada felt? In Iraq, Shada lived in a small house in a village in the mountains In Huddersfield she lives in a terraced house. Life is very different here! What sort of things do you think might be different for Shada in England? Summers The women in In Iraq, are very Shada’s family Shada’s hot in Iraq family always and friends spoke Kurdish wear a hijab Winters are very Their cold food was differen t If you had to go and live in a different country what might be different? Children should be encouraged to ask the doll questions. It’s important that the adult speaking for the doll has prepared for this. For example, you should have some knowledge of the doll’s country of origin, language spoken, some cultural information etc. It’s worth spending some time researching. Questions can be searching! It’s useful to have a basic biography for the doll. Continuity is vital if the doll is to be credible and children will remember! Shada’s Biography Origin: Iraq (In the village of Herow in Kurdistan, on the Iranian border)* Birthday: 3rd May 2002 Family: lives with Mother, Father, one brother, Kalan, aged 10 Languages spoken: Kurdish, Arabic Religion: Muslim Home now: terraced house, main road Thornton Lodge Likes: pink, dolls, pizza, sunny days Dislikes: people who are mean, dogs, bananas *Found in an article about a journey to Kurdistan with useful details about village life After each session, any information that has been given about the doll should be recorded in a diary or journal, along with comments about discussions that ensued. It’s possible that the doll might visit different classes/groups. Anyone working with the doll can refer to the journal and any issues raised can be revisited later to help reinforce lessons learned. The doll’s story can help to explore and confront prejudices and discrimination and any misinformation that children may have picked up. In sessions where the doll needs the children’s advice and support, children learn a valuable lesson in standing up for themselves and others Shada’s Diary Monday 8.9.08 Shada was excited and nervous because today she was coming to meet the group. They asked lots of questions. Shada told them that she hoped to find some friends because since she started school nobody had played with her . Everybody in the group said that they would be kind to her Monday 15.9.08 Today Shada told the group that some boys had laughed at her because she didn’t understand what the teacher told her to do. The group talked about how hard it must be when you can’t understand what people are saying. They thought Shada should try to remember how to say “I don’t understand” so the teacher would help her. They thought the boys were very mean. Everybody in the group said that they wouldn’t laugh at someone like that because they knew it would make her sad The doll should share joys and triumphs as well as challenges. Today is Her Mummy and Shada’s Daddy bought her a birthday new doll and some trainers Using realia can help She’s happy make the because she’s session more having pizza for interesting tea and that’s her favourite food What does Let’s tell Shada your family do about birthdays on your in our school birthday? Taken from the Persona Doll Training website: Citizenship For All: … use a range of learning approaches with children in Key Stage 1 and 2 to: help them unlearn any prejudiced and discriminatory attitudes and actions they may have absorbed and to develop the skills they need to challenge racism and other social inequalities build their sense of identity and feelings of belonging build relationships based on respect for themselves and for others encourage them to be enthusiastic, empathetic, thoughtful and critical learners willing to question their own assumptions and beliefs . learn about their own rights and responsibilities and the rights of others address controversial issues, e.g. racism in circle time, in citizenship education and in other areas of the curriculum practice democracy and take meaningful action to bring about change. There are various companies selling dolls and puppets that can be used in this way. Our dolls were purchased from Persona Doll Training, who also offer training sessions and a range of other resources to support the use of the dolls. Their website is www.persona-doll-training.org .