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Building Characters, Blending Cultures

Kids watching TV 700 x 460 px

When I was a kid, I saw my cultural identity represented in media on opposite ends of the spectrum: completely Americanized or completely Chinese. Today, kids have an incredibly rich media window into the lived experiences of others—a window that has widened to cover the vast range of possibilities between completely Americanized and completely any-other-culture. Code-switching into a non-English language for a single word or entire conversation. Sitting around a dinner table with only American food or a mix including non-American dishes. Eating with chopsticks or forks, or both.

Blending and growing cultures can be beautiful. There is no perfect balance of American and non-American elements within an individual kids’ show or within an individual kid or family. At Noggin, Nickelodeon’s interactive learning platform, we consider these questions quite deliberately as we develop our original kid characters. Beyond building characters to be representative of various racial/ethnic cultures, we architect full profiles including parent and grandparent backstories to understand how their families’ journey to the U.S. drives the blending of cultures that make up a child’s world.

I would love to continue seeing more examples of blending cultures beyond language and food, especially in evolving family relationships. There is more work to be done; at the same time we have made tremendous progress. Representing the diversity between cultures, within cultures, and within the blending of cultures gives me hope for growing our awareness and appreciation for every child’s lived experience.

Reflections Website 2023

This article comes from the introduction of Inaugural EmbraceRace Reflections on Children's Racial Learning. Download all the reflections from leaders attending to children's racial learning in parent practice, education, healthcare, children's media and social science research.

Courtney Wong Chin

Courtney Wong Chin is Senior Director of Research at Noggin, Nickelodeon’s interactive learning platform, where she oversees UX research, content research, and learning impact evaluation. More about Courtney >
Courtney Wong Chin