Celebrating Families

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Everyone has a family, right? They come in all shapes and sizes and colors and styles, but a family is a family. When I look at a class of children in our library, I see 25 different ways of being in a family – kids whose parents work, kids who live with grandparents, kids whose families are caring for someone who is sick, kids who live with one parent, kids who have two mothers, and many others. There is no “one size fits all” way to be a family, just like there is no right answer to what kind of art is the best. I am intentional about selecting books for the library shelves, our curriculum and summer reading lists that reflect this universal truth. Books should reflect a child’s experience – but just as importantly, a good book affirms all kinds of experience.

If I could choose five books that celebrate all kinds of families and show children how many people fit under that big umbrella of the word “Family,” these are the books:

Who’s In My Family? All About Our Families by Robie Harris (Robie Harris is the author of many wonderful books for children about their families and their bodies. I recommend her books to parents almost every week.  This new book features the whimsical illustrations of Nadine Bernard Westcott,)

All Kinds of Families by Mary Ann Hoberman (Hoberman points out that “families” are all around us: “Bottle caps, gingersnaps, buttons, or rings/You can makes families from all sorts of things.”)

The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman (Last week, a second grade student asked me for a book with “lots of details to look at.”  This is the book I gave to her. Ross Asquith’s drawings of all kinds of families, holiday celebrations, houses and pets are joyfully presented.)

You and Me Together: Moms, Dads and Kids Around the World by Barbara Kerley (Regular readers of this blog know that I love Barbara Kerley’s picture books. This one features photographs of parents and children enjoying time together.)

The Family Book by Todd Parr (Todd Parr is awesome. All of his warm and colorful books celebrate variety and the many ways we are all alike.)

Next week is Inly’s book fair, and although I can’t select every book that Scholastic sends to us, I can make sure that we only sell the books that enrich our student’s lives – books that inform, make kids laugh, encourage creativity, and inspire kids to know themselves, their families, and their world.


Seeing the World Through Barbara Kerley’s Eyes

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I took this picture the other day while one of our Children’s House teachers was reading to a group of young children. She is reading A Cool Drink of  Water by Barbara Kerley, one of a series of books about things that unite us.  You can see another book in Kerley’s series, You and Me Together, on the shelf. I love these gentle and lovely books. Each book in the”Photo Inspiration” series features stunning photographs of people participating in everyday activities in a way that reminds kids that while we are very much the same – our lives often look very different.

When this teacher asked the kids where water comes from, one of the kids replied: “It’s simple. You just turn on the faucet.”  A perfectly age appropriate response, right?  But Kerley’s book is a great way to open a conversation about the water cycle, and one of the images may be the first time a child realizes that there are many ways to drink water. All of the books in the series could easily be included in the photography section of a bookstore, although it would be tempting to cut a few of the images out and frame them. The text is minimal. Kerley wisely leaves room space for questions – and wonder.

The books in the Photo Inspiration series are:

You and Me Together: Moms, Dads, and Kids Around the World

A Cool Drink of Water

A Little Peace

One World, One Day

and scheduled for publication in 2013…The World Is Waiting For You

Seven Billion and Counting…

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According to the United Nations, the world’s population will reach 7 billion people tomorrow – a memorable way to begin the week. I’m not sure this “elevator” has a weight limit. We will have to rely on human ingenuity to face this challenge as we have so many times before. Surfing around a bit this morning, I read that China and India account for 37% of the world’s population, and after Asia, Africa is the second most populous continent. I also learned that the best way to truly get away from it all is to move to Greenland or Iceland.

I want to ask our students to think about the number 7 billion. I can tell them that, according to one article I read, 7 billion people could stand shoulder to shoulder in Los Angeles. And that if we were to all gather in Los Angeles, the language most of us would hear is Mandarin Chinese which is spoken by over 12% of the population.

Here are ten picture books to initiate a discussion of our changing planet. The first five are for young children – books that will spark an interest in geography and curiosity about this big world.

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox

People by Peter Spier

One World, One Day by Barbara Kerley

Somewhere in the World Right Now by Stacey Schuett

How to Bake an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman

Houses and Homes by Ann Morris (Morris’s Around the World books include Bread, Bread, Bread and On the Go and Families. The books are a fascinating way to introduce young children to our diverse world.)

If the World Were a Village: A Book About the World’s People by David J. Smith (A look at the world – based on the idea that the world is a village of 100 people. Be sure you get the second edition. The book was originally published in 2002, but has been updated to reflect the current demographics.)

One Well: The Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss (70% of our planet is water and this book – for older children – stresses how water connects all of us and the urgent need to protect the “well.”)

A Life Like Mine: How Children Live Around the World (profiles of children and how their most fundamental needs are met. A project of DK Publishing in association with UNICEF.)

A Child’s Introduction to the World: Geography, Cultures and People – From the Grand Canyon to the Great Wall of China by Heather Alexander (Another book for older children, but I like this book’s focus on geography, beginning with a section titled, “Where Am I?”)

If I Were President…



There’s been a pit in my stomach all day that is equal parts grief for the victims of the tragedy in Arizona and concern about the price of our increasingly divisive rhetoric.  If I were the President, I would assign some homework.  I would send every American three books.

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr

A Little Peace by Barbara Kerley

When I assign reading to my students, we use their reading as a starting point for discussion. Maybe these three books are where we need to start now. There’s a case to be made that it wouldn’t make any difference. But it certainly can’t hurt.

An Extraordinary Book


I just read a truly amazing picture book biography: The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy) by Barbara Kerley. Kerley is pretty extraordinary herself. She is the author of numerous books for young readers, including one of my favorites, The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins.

Kerley’s new book will be added to my “go to” shelf as I anticipate many uses for this wonderful new book. It’s a creative and original biography of Mark Twain—but based on the “biography” Twain’s young daughter, Susy, wrote about her father. It is Twain through the eyes of his daughter. Several of Suzy’s journal entries are reproduced as mini booklets on nearly every page, and it works beautifully.

The back materials include information about Twain and his daughter as well as an extraordinary page on how to write biographies. I can’t wait to share this book with my students!

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!