Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Family is a Family is a Family

In a world as diverse as ours, it’s always exciting to see a new picture book that represents children and adults from a variety of backgrounds. Families have taken on new shapes in recent years, a situation which offers us lots of opportunities to understand and appreciate the wealth of culture and experience around us. In Sara O’Leary’s A Family is a Family is a Family, a school teacher asks her students to describe what makes each child’s family unique. One little girl is afraid to talk about hers because she’s sure she’s the only “odd” one in the room. As the other children ahead of her relate what they perceive to be their own families' special qualities, her trepidation gradually dissipates.

Simple but effective illustrations by Qin Leng show one child saying: “There are lots of kids in my family. Mom and Dad just keep coming home with more.” Another believes the new baby at his house was ordered online. One girl lives with her grandmother. Yet another tells the class that both of her moms love to sing, loudly, in spite of their terrible voices. An artist who’s also a sports fan splits her time between her mother’s and her father’s homes ~ “fair’s fair”. A boy in the class has two dads, one tall and the other short, but they both give great hugs. Blended families, a mom in a wheelchair, and a child with “more grandparents than anyone else I know” give our nervous child the strength to speak up about her own foster mom, who, when at the park one day and asked which are her real children, responds that she doesn’t have any imaginary ones.

Young children are amazingly open-minded and resilient, yet, as they grow, they become more susceptible to doubts and fears that can make them self-conscious about who they are and the environments in which they function. Acknowledging those things that make us different can also help us become more aware of our similarities, and we find ourselves stronger in the process. A Family is a Family is a Family is a nice addition to the growing list of children’s books that foster a spirit of inclusiveness and acceptance.

Guest post by Bridget W. 

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