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These dolls reflect diversity of young girls

August 24, 2007|By LISA PREJEAN

When my daughter was 5, she had a favorite doll that she took everywhere. The doll came with a tiny red wagon, and it was precious to see my little one pull the doll from place to place, park the wagon, scoop up the doll and straighten her dress. The doll's hair bow matched her dress - red with white polka dots.

With only that much description, what image comes to your mind? Did you imagine that the doll's hair was blonde? brown? red?

If you did, your image wasn't reality.

The doll's hair was black. So was her skin.

My daughter didn't seem to notice. I thought that was wonderful.

That doll gained my daughter several African-American friends who wanted to know where they could buy one. It was really interesting to observe.

It has been a while since I thought about that doll, but the memory came back when I read about Karito Kids, a new collection of ethnically diverse dolls.

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Karito (pronounced ka-ree-toe) is a noun that means charity or love of one's neighbor. The word Karito comes from the constructed international language, Esperanto, a universal second language created to foster peace and international understanding.

Many girls today want dolls that look just like them, with outfits to match their own. As parents, we may want to encourage them to consider other options.

When we make cookies, we don't want to use the same cookie cutter all the time. Sometimes it's more fun to drop the dough and see how it turns out. No two cookies are the same that way. Children can see how the cookies differ in appearance and yet they are all the same inside.

I know that's an oversimplified example, but children need illustrations to which they can relate. Sometimes we adults do, too.

There's a story behind each Karito Kid, according to the company Web site, www.karitokids.com:

· Wan Ling is a panda lover from China.

· Lulu is an aspiring soccer star and co-host of a children's TV show in Kenya.

· Zoe is a bohemian songwriter from New York.

· Gia is a fashionista and budding designer from Italy.

· Pita is a medal-winning equestrian from Mexico.

Each doll comes with a book that tells the story of what her life would be like if she were an 11-year-old girl in that country. The books are on a fifth-grade reading level but also make good read-alouds for younger girls, says Mary Lou Baxter, junior account executive for Productivity Inc., the public relations firm that is representing Karito Kids. In addition to the doll's "story," the books contain facts on the country the doll represents.

Karito Kids donates 3 percent of the sales of each doll and book to Plan USA, a worldwide children's charity. Doll owners can designate the area where their donation will be concentrated: growing up healthy, learning, habitat or livelihood.

"Children feel like they are giving it themselves," Baxter says.

There also are interactive games on the Karito Kids Web site that allow children to donate their "earnings" to Plan USA. Points earned can be converted to monetary donations.

If we can teach children to accept those who are different from them and give to those less fortunate, we've accomplished much.

If they get to play during the process, that's just fine with me. Children learn a lot when they play, especially when they've been lovingly guided in the right direction.

For more information about Plan USA, go to www.planusa.org.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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