Children’s Books about Family Diversity

After watching my daughter’s daycare provider fumble and brush off a child’s question about my daughter’s “dad” – and coming to terms with my own lack of having just the right thing to say in the moment – I wanted to get more acquainted with children’s books that broach the subject of diverse families. Reading enough books about others’ lived experiences can solve all the world’s problems. I truly believe that.

So I headed to my local library and found some real gems.

This post contains affiliate links. I could really use your help to secure my place in Amazon’s affiliate program. I still need two more books to be purchase by following one of these links in my blog (on this page or this one) in order to be accepted. Driving amazon sales through my blog won’t bring home the bacon for me, but it will help to offset some of the costs of having this blog.

After my previous post about baby books for raising socially conscious kids, my friend Speck of Awesome recommended this one.

This book is written in a celebratory tone: All families are special. It also paints diversity as the norm, rather than telling a tale about one special family that is “different”. Another thing I like about this book is it’s international applicability. I believe the families represented in the book reflect far more than the typical Western, Colonial family structures we are familiar with. This is more than a book about same-sex parents, adoption, and mixed race families (although those discussions alone would be enough to make me happy at this point); it’s more inclusive than that.

One thing to warn about in this book is that it mentions “all families are sad when they lose someone they love.” I believe this is a great piece to include in a book about families, but I’m also not ready to talk about death with my toddler. I don’t really want to provoke those questions about loss and permanence of loss. The book also seems to leave out polyamorous families (leaves it at, “some families have one parent instead of two”). Otherwise, top notch reading material for kids and their caregivers.

This book is about a child first realizing that her family looks different from other families in her school. She not only learns that all families actually look a little different from each other, but she also learns to celebrate her family and define them for herself. The book addresses how a mother’s day project at school might impact a child with two dads, but it’s relatable for any kind of family. I really have no qualms with this book. It’s a cute story and it has earned a permanent place on our bookshelf!

This is a really sweet book about families created through adoption, and in typical Todd Parr style, the families represented in its pages are diverse. The “races” of the family members are ambiguous because Parr uses all colours of the rainbow as skin colours – but, he still mixes the colours within the families because, of course, not all members of a family need to share the same skin colour. Some of the family types represented include a single mom, a single dad, elderly (i.e., grey haired) parents, mixed race parents, two moms, and two dads. The message is sweet and genuine: “We belong together because you needed someone to help you grow up healthy and strong, and I had help to give. Now we can grow up together.”

This is kind of a counting book, but it does more to represent different types of families than to teach counting. Each page showcases a different family structure. Page one is one person reading to her cat. Page two is a parent or caregiver and one child. Page three is – you guessed it – two parents and a child. The families grow in size and also diversity, some with multiple generations, some with three caregiver-type figures, and of course two moms and two dads are included. What I really like about this book is that the family members are a bit ambiguous, to the point where pretty much anybody could see themselves in one of these families, even though there are only 10 families in the book. I went so far as to imagine that one family was two dads, their baby, their surrogate, their surrogate’s partner and two children, and one grandparent. My wife interpreted this family completely differently. That’s how this book can be so all-encompassing of family types in only 10 pages. And while it doesn’t overtly teach about family diversity in terms of the text, the pictures are inclusive, and most importantly, anyone can see their own family reflected in the pages of this book.

This was on my previous book list about socially conscious baby books. It’s so incredibly relevant to today’s topic, though, that it’s worth including again. What Makes a Baby COULD NOT POSSIBLY be more inclusive. It talks about the three components you need to make a baby: an egg, sperm, and a uterus. It talks about the egg and sperm sharing stories with each other about the body they came from, which I think is a pure genius way to describe to young kids the role of DNA. All family structures, from adoptive to two dads to single mom, will all feel included by this book. And, just as important, kids reading this book will be free from imposed assumptions about family structure. This book opens the mind to the possibilities. And it does so without ever mentioning SEX – so parents who are concerned about discussions of family diversity equalling discussions about sexual activity and sexual preference, fear not. This book is colourful and eye catching with fun graphics and a narrative so clean and simple that I’m pretty sure my <2 year old can understand. Could not recommend this book more.

***Bonus Book***

This book was a random selection at my local library that I didn’t realize was anything special until my second time reading it. It’s a simple, sweet bedtime book with simple verses that you could read to a newborn or a toddler. Although it doesn’t highlight diverse family types, it does represent a very underrepresented type of parent in children’s books – the DAD (or masculine-presenting parent). Literally all of our children’s books have at least one mom (mommy, mama, etc.). That may be partially due to the fact that we are a dad-less family and we are drawn to books without dads, but I’m quite certain that books highlighting a father’s parenting role are few and far between. Hush a Bye, Baby shows dads of different races solo-parenting their babies at bedtime. Refreshing.

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How To Throw an Awesome Adoption Party

We have lots of friends all over North America working on second parent adoptions in response to the Trump presidency. We have other friends who adopted a child in the traditional sense but didn’t see any precedent for throwing their family a party, although they probably felt like they deserved one! Adoption is something to celebrate. Getting parental rights is huge, no matter your gender, orientation, family make-up, race, creed, etc. It’s huge. But there’s no tradition of throwing adoption parties like there is for baby showers, baptism tea, and now even gender reveal parties. I think this should be a traditional party for any family who experiences adoption. 

Here’s our story, in case you’re new to my blog:

Because we used a known sperm donor, my wife – who didn’t give birth – couldn’t put her name anywhere on our daughter’s birth registration, and we had to give our daughter my last name when we actually intended for her to have my wife’s last name. We had to go through a second parent adoption, which is actually a step-parent adoption, but LGBT families *unofficially* changed the name because step-parent wasn’t necessarily representative of their situations. We had to send our donor to a lawyer, I had to visit a lawyer, and my wife visited a lawyer. My wife had to pay for all of it because technically she was the one petitioning for adoption. We filled out a big stack of paperwork with help from our local LGBTQ Parenting Network. We had our application rejected twice by the judge for silly things like signatures in blue ink instead of black. Also twice we had to order additional, missing forms in from the Thunder Bay office (they had to be snail mailed for whatever reason). Finally, after 3 months, we got the call that our adoption was approved. Our adoption certificate reads:

“…the parents of the person are my name and my wife’s name.

Our Province’s parental rights laws for LGBT families changed just a couple of months after our daughter was born. Now, thankfully, babies born to same-sex (and multiple parent) families in Ontario can put all intended parents’ names on the birth registration right away. But our baby was born during the dark ages of 6 months ago so we had to do the adoption. We are still waiting for a substituted birth registration and a new birth certificate, but the paperwork is DONE. 

We chose to throw this party to celebrate my wife’s hard-earned rights in the life of her own daughter. We also wanted to share the joy – and ok, maybe we wanted to make a bit of a political statement as well by shouting from the rooftops about our fight for rights. We were bowled over by the love and support that our friends and family showed us. I hope that if others have adoption parties to celebrate making their own families “official” (in the legal sense) that their loved ones will be as wonderful and supportive as ours were. 

On to the good stuff – pictures and ideas for throwing your own adoption party:

Invitations

We’ve always been the kind of crafty people who hand-make invitations for every event. But I have a baby now, so nuts to that. I used a free evite invitation. There isn’t really any preexisting “adoption party” stationary out there, so I chose a “Let’s Celebrate!” template. Similarly, all of the cards we received at the party were “Congratulations” cards, and one “You did it!” card from my mom. I would love to see a Hallmark or even Etsy line of cards for this kind of ocassion. In the meantime, you’ll have to make your own, or make due with the generic celebration templates out there.

Guest List

Invite people who have supported your family from the beginning. This is the same rule I followed for our wedding. There were people who didn’t get an invite because they didn’t support same-sex marriage (even if they made an “exception” for us), and people who were slow to come around were last to be added to our guest list. Luckily everyone in our lives supports our family, but it was clear who really grasped the importance of the event and who didn’t based on our RSVP list. You don’t want people at your party who think your family is any less than theirs or who don’t see the point in taking legal steps for equality. They will just make you uncomfortable, and quite frankly, don’t deserve a piece of cake. 

Decorations

I got some great decoration ideas from commenters on my post about planning the adoption party. I didn’t get around to buying balloons and streamers, which really is such a simple party staple, but I did these four things that were really noticed and appreciated by the guests:

  1. Displayed the adoption certificate (behind glass, because there were lots of sticky little kid hands at the party)
  2. Displayed photos of our family (mostly my wife and our daughter) to drive home the message through imagery that my wife has always been our daughter’s mother, before the paperwork recognized it.
  3. Displayed a huge banner that said “Love Makes a Family,” again to remind everyone that the paperwork was a huge win but that it shouldn’t have been necessary for us to be recognized as a family.
  4. Put our baby in a onesie from a local (Canadian) Etsy shop that said “Officially a wife’s family name” This was a surprise for my wife and everyone at the party loved it.

As for the less political decorations, we offered alcohol to our guests and made a local beer list (because we live in a hipster town with a thousand breweries and we are beer snobs), we set out all kinds of food from spring rolls to cupcakes, and we made a kids’ corner for our tinier guests to play (I had to learn to share my baby’s toys 😶).



Gifts

We wondered if we would need to specify “no gifts” since there wasn’t really a preexisting etiquette for this kind of party, and it turns out we should have. However, the gifts people gave were so meaningful – it seemed people treated this ocassion like a baptism or some other big cultural milestone. So you decide if you want to make your adoption party giftless, or if you want to embrace the exchange of sentimental, cultural-milestone-type gifts. 

Here are some of the super meaningful and beautiful gifts that were bestowed on our little one at her adoption party:

  • silver child cutlery with her name engraved on it
  • silver scroll document holder for the adoption certificate
  • Silver locket with her full name engraved on it
  • Deluxe, gorgeously designed wooden alphabet blocks
  • Art for her room (made by the giver)

    We were also given roses, and my wife was given a bottle of Glenlivet aged scotch. There were more gifts, but it feels weird going on and on about the loot we got from throwing this party. That wasn’t the point, I swear. 😶
    So that’s how we celebrated! I hope that others in similar situations will throw themselves or their loved ones an adoption party. It’s such a great gesture of recognition and support. We were so lucky to have such a huge number of people who recognized – without prompts! – just how monumental this was for our family. IF we ever have another baby, we won’t have to adopt because birth registration laws are now updated in our province. I admit, I’d be a little sad to not celebrate in this way for another child!