Children should see themselves and their families in the books they read. Unfortunately, traditional books focus too much on the average child and the traditional family. People of color, disabilities and non-traditional families are hard to find in the average bookshelf… We accidentally exclude a huge number of children from our stories and unintentionally suggest that the “normal” family has white skin color, mom and dad are married, living in a big home and have one to two children, all of them spared by disabilities or anything else out of the “ordinary”.
But this is not the reality. These days it’s more important than ever to talk to our children about stereotypes and hidden racism. I should be honest: Being grown up in the 80s and 90s in rural Germany by bookshelf was full of books – none of them of people of color. Same-sex-marriages weren’t a topic back then. I like today’s more diverse world better and am sure that it’s better for our children to grow up being aware of and interested in other cultures. It wasn’t until my short time as Barefoot Book Ambassador though that I really learned to love diverse children books. Our children benefit from knowing that there is no “average”, no “right” or “wrong”.
Enough said. I’m so happy to see more and more publishers pick up diverse books, the result being thoughtful books with wonderful illustrations that are fun to read and introduce our children to a more diverse world. One of them: The picture book “We are family” by Patricia Hegarty, published by Tiger Tales.
From page one on we accompany ten families from breakfast to bed time, through good and bad times. These families are as colorful and lively as they come: Patchwork-families, families with multiple children and with just one or two. Adopted families and parents of every age. Families of color, families with disabilities. Two-parent- and One-parent-families and families with parents of the same gender. All the families in this book have a different life, a different journey, a different goal in life. They have one thing in common: Times are not always easy, but families “stick together. Through thick and thin, happy and sad.” They are “there for each other, in good times and bad.” Life can be fun, but life can be difficult, too. Sometimes we are in a rush to get to work, sometimes we enjoy a movie together, sometimes a tragedy brings on tears. “We handle things together, we feel each other’s pain. Family is the silver lining, the sunshine after the rain.” And at the end, when we are tucked in bed at night, we know that we are loved – safe and sound.
Patricia Hegarty not only picks up the issue “family”, which is important for preschoolers, but created another wonderful diverse book. Her rhymes are wonderful to read and calming especially during bedtime. A most important part of this book are the illustrations by Ryan Wheatercroft: He pictures families of every background and their everyday life. He portraits people of not every ethnicity (what would be basically not possible), but at least a good selection of them.
“We are family” is perfect for children preschool-age – especially after three- to four-year olds already pick up on stereotypes. Patricia Hegarty’s gently rhyming text is fun to read out aloud and my four-year-old daughter didn’t have a problem to grasp the meaning. She loved the illustrations, pointed out the different activities she likes to do, too and how our day goes in comparison. And she was overly worried about the family who lost their dog… 🙂 That doesn’t mean that older children would not profit from this book in their family library. “We are family” is a wonderful conversation starter within the family, for preschools and school classes!
“We are family” is a wonderful book for parents who want to introduce their children to a more diverse world. We can highly recommend this read – another great book by Tiger Tales!