We Are Family, All of Us

still a family.jpg‘Tis the season when the media bombards us with images of family gatherings and holiday celebrations.  Let’s pause a moment to remember that many of our students will not see their families reflected in those messages.  While some families may celebrate with large gatherings, we recognize that some children may spend time with grandparents, foster parents, or other caregivers.

For instance, a recent article in the Huffington Post (Teachers Are Serving as First Responders to the Opioid Crisis) reported that up to 40% of students do not live with their parents in McDowell County, West Virginia where opioid-related hospitalizations are the highest in the state.  Some live with grandparents, other relatives, friends and foster parents. In fact, West Virginia has seen a surge in foster care entrance with increases across the country as well.

In addition to foster care and family guardians (grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc.), diverse family structures may also include single parents (divorced or never married), adoptive parents, blended families, LGBTQ+ parents, and parents deployed with the military. There is also an increasing number of children who live with parents born outside of the U.S. and in families who have immigrated into the United States.

To create an inclusive school environment where all humans are honored, we have a responsibility to ensure that both our school and classroom libraries represent all children’s families. When children see themselves reflected in the books they read, it validates their experiences. When children do not see themselves represented in the texts, it sends a message that they are not valued or important. When children are exposed to unfamiliar stories, they begin to expand their awareness of many ways of being and become more accepting of others.

Discussion allows children to process text, consider multiple perspectives, address misconceptions, and become more accepting of others. Conversations in the classroom can lead children to better know their peers and strengthen relationships. It also gives the teacher a window into the lives of her students.  Discussion also opens the opportunities for children to embrace their own family structure and lay claim to it among their peers.

We believe literature has transformative potential to validate us, expand our thinking, and grow our insights beyond those we bring to the page. In recent years publishers have brought us a wider range of texts to validate and value families. In this post, we offer a collection of text featuring different family structures and living arrangements. We hope this collection will help to broaden the definition of family and move us toward greater inclusion of all families.

Diverse Families

Black is Brown is Tan by Arnold Adoff (diverse families bi-racial family)

Families, Families, Families! by Suzanne Lang (diverse families)

The Family Book by Todd Parr (PreK-K) (diverse families)

One Family by George Shannon (diverse families)

Two Mrs. Gibsons by Toyomi Igus (multicultural identity – Japanese mother, African American grandmother)

Thunder Boy Jr., by Sherman Alexie (Native American)

Yo Soy Muslim: A Father’s Letter to His Daughter by Mark Gonzalez (multicultural identity)

Homelessness

Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting (homelessness, single parent)

A Shelter in Our Car by Monica Gunning  (Homelessness, single mother, deceased caregiver, immigrant caregiver)

Still a Family by Brenda Reeves Sturgis (homelessness)

Same-Sex Parents

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell (same-sex)

Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman (same-sex parents)

In Our Mother’s House by Patricia Polacco (same-sex parents, adoption)

Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman (same-sex parents)

King and King and Family by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland (same-sex parents)

Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer (same-sex parents)

Single Parent

A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams (single parent, grandparent)

Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting (homelessness, single parent)

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose Lewis  (single parent, adoption)

A Shelter in Our Car by Monica Gunning  (Homelessness, single mother, deceased caregiver, immigrant caregiver)

Grandparents/Extended Families

A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams  (single parent, grandparent)

Last Stop on Market Street  by Matt de la Peña (grandparent)

Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina (grandparent)

Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs by Tomie dePaola (grandparent; death)

I Love Saturdays y Domingos by Alma Flor Ada (extended family)

Adoption/Foster Care

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose Lewis (single parent, adoption)

In Our Mother’s House by Patricia Polacco (same-sex parents, adoption)

Jin Woo by Eve Bunting (adoption)

The Red Blanket  by Eliza Thomas (adoption)

Our Gracie Aunt by Jacqueline Woodson (foster care)

Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson (death, foster care) (5+ chapter book)

Divorce/Single Parents/Step Parents

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose Lewis (2000) (single parent, adoption)

Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend by Karen Stanton (divorced parents)

Charlie Anderson by Barbara Abercrombie (divorced parents)

Blended by Sharon Draper  (5+ chapter book) (divorced parents, step parent)

The Memory String by Eve Bunting (death, step parent)

My Man Blue by Nikki Grimes (special relationship)

Because of Winn Dixieby Kate DiCamillo (single parent) (3-5 chapter book)

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary (divorced parents) (3-5 chapter book)

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (divorce) (4+ chapter book)

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (death, step parent)  (4+ chapter book)

Military Families

Crow Call  by Lois Lowry (father returns after being away for a long time in war)

Incarcerated Parent

Far Apart, Close in Heart: Being a Family When a Loved One is Incarcerated by Becky Birtha

Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty (incarcerated parent)

Our Moms by Q. Futrell (incarcerated moms)

Visiting Day by Jacqueline Woodson (incarcerated parent/caregiver)

A New Year’s Reunion by Yu Li-Qiong (a parent who works far away and comes home rarely)

Death of a Parent

Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson (immigration, divorce, incarcerated parent, death) (5+ chapter book)

Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson (death, foster care) (5+ chapter book)

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (death, step parent)  (4+ chapter book)

Tips and Suggestions

  • Use inclusive language such as  “parents, guardians, families, and caregivers”  and avoid using phrases such as “mom and dad”.
  • Avoid asking students to discuss their homes as some may be in transition and living in shelters. Instead consider asking students to share about more general places of importance. This could include church, school, the playground, a friend’s home, etc.
  • Instead of activities for holidays such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as some children may feel left out, encourage students to share about someone who is important in their lives.

Additional Resources

http://www.welcomingschools.org/resources/books/diverse-families/

What is a Family? K-5 Lesson from Teaching Tolerancehttps://www.tolerance.org/classroom-resources/tolerance-lessons/what-is-a-family

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