What does family mean to you? Does it mean the people in your house? Your pets? The folks you see at Christmas? For some its where they came from, for others where they live. Are your friends your family? Is your family simply those that choose to love and look after you, and you love and look after them?
Today we have a selection of stories that reflect these many kinds of family. I find adopting a less prescriptive definition of ‘family’ is also good in allowing any child from every sort of family enjoy Mother’s and Father’s days.
The Brothers Quibble – Aaron Blabey: This is the core story selected for this year’s National Simultaneous Storytime sessions. It tells of a child’s negative reaction (and actions) to being usurped by a baby brother, and his eventual acceptance and love of his sibling. This book uses rhyming verse and vivid illustrations to convoy the shifting emotions and bad behaviour throughout. If you have read the similar redemption story Pig the Pug by the same author, you will know what you’re in for.
All Through The Year – Jane Godwin: This depicts a family (mum, dad, kids ,and pets) experiencing a year, a month for every two page spread. School, Christmas, summer holidays, everything happens at a different time, and it’s good to see the positive in every part of the year. What I like about this book is that it is showing the family as the constant thing throughout the year. Most books, as is the nature of narrative, show when a world is shaken and broken apart, the day when everything changed. This book, in showing a whole year, treats the effect of time as a minor constant flow: the more things change, the more they stay the same. The family loves each other at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. Much like life. The star of this book is the expansive tableau on each double page spread, and warrants dwelling with your child. Mercifully,there is also nice verse for you to read (many visual originating picture picture-books leave you the reader high and dry with a handful of single evocative words or worse; none at all).
My Family Tree and Me – Dusan Peteici: Continuing the tree and family theme, this new and innovative book shows two sides of a boy’s family through the years. Pay special attention to the family traits being passed down and changed over time. While, like the other families so far, he is relatively heteronormative, his extended families come from different countries, nationalities and historical periods, not to mention a variety of lifestyles.
The Pigeon needs a Bath – Mo Willems: A fun book through and through, this one encourages you to admonish and be strict with the pigeon. Encourage the kids, on your signal, to talk back at the pigeon (as it will be talking at you). Books like this are great for encouraging responsibility for others in children, and seeing their own suspect behaviour (or the behaviour of ‘when they were young’, perhaps only weeks ago)…
Welcome to the Family – Mary Hoffman: If you truly want an expansive, informative look at the different forms of family (at the expense of a certain narrative drive), this book is very good. It’s a children’s explanation book, along the same lines as Mummy Laid an Egg, and similar first experiences books.
Who Loves Baby – Julia Hubery: Much like the Brother’s Quibble, big trouble can comes to this meerkat family, along with a new baby. In the case however, the older sibling doesn’t react with such anger, more befuddlement about what the big deal is, a much more understandable response in my experience. . Told from the perspective of the older sibling, it should be very easy to relate and open the floor for questions of empathy as we go.
Activity: Family Crown
On a blank or coloured piece of thin card, create a design much like a spiked fence all along the length (see picture A and B).
This is essentially the body of the crown. You can make it long enough with multiple sheets to circumvent your child’s head alone, or to be attached at the back with a piece of ribbon (much like a tiara design, very effective).
Before you attach it though, have your child fill the crown with pictures of their family. This is a common subject to naturally draw anyhow. At the very least you can probably convince the child to dedicate the creation to a loved one.
You can adopt my window-design, or simply let your child go hog wild over the crowns surface, either way you have an easy craft celebrating family your child can wear and enjoy.