Children’s Corner: Embracing Inclusion

childrens-books-inclusion

A lot of people have asked me how C “handles” her dad being trans. I never know how to answer because to me, it feels like asking “how does your child handle her dad being tall?” I forget that to many people, this is news; but to us, this is simply our family. We are who we are, we feel pretty normal, to be honest. Plus, we have a wonderfully supportive circle of friends (y’all know who you are!). So C doesn’t really have anything to “handle”…at least not yet, at her age.

But being asked this question so many times got me thinking: Should I be pointing out that we are different? That some of our friends are different? What those differences are? Have I missed picking up on any questions she may have but not know how to express? I thought I’d stop by the library and pick up a few books that speak to inclusion, and see what her reaction would be.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole
My friend April at The Steadfast Reader has praised this book so often, I knew it had to be at the top of my list. This is a true story about two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who pair up, longed for a baby penguin of their own, and were finally given that chance. Really, this is such a sweet and moving little story, I don’t understand how people who have actually read it can be outraged at all.

The Family Book by Todd Parr
My friend Pam is one of the most kindhearted people I know, so when she recommends a children’s author whose books foster that same trait (in this case, Todd Parr), I listen. Parr’s books deliver messages of love and kindness in a very simple, unobtrusive way—and with brightly-colored illustrations that are a lot of fun. This particular title portrays all kinds of families and celebrates what makes them unique. Noisy or quiet, clean or messy, same color or different colors, one kid or many, single parent, same-sex parents, or grandparents raising their grandkids—it’s clear that the most important characteristic of any family is one that is common to all: love.

My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis, illustrated by Suzanne DeSimone
The author’s son Dyson inspired this story about a 4-year-old who loves sparkles and dresses and loves climbing trees and playing with his big brother. He has complete freedom to be himself; his parents don’t force him to conform to gender stereotypes. Not much about this book struck C as out of the ordinary. She enjoyed the illustrations and related to Dyson easily (C tends to break gender-specific play stereotypes, too). The only thing that she found confusing (and upsetting): Why did some people laugh at Dyson?

I didn’t have anything to worry about, and I kind of already knew that. These stories were met with affection, simple curiosity, and caring. I know one day C will come into contact with people who are vocal about—even proud of—their bigotry. Hopefully her own experiences will give her the confidence to shake that off, to remember you can’t go wrong when you put human dignity and love first.

  • Love this post! C’s a lucky girl. Also ALL THE BOOKS by Parr are fantastic, I think we have the Feelings Book, It’s Okay To Be Different, and maybe one more in addition to The Family Book 🙂

    • Ohhh that’s good to know! And I’ll be forever grateful for you for recommending Tango with such gusto! 🙂

  • You are going to be my go to when I finally have a child and get to go book shopping! Although I really want to read the one about penguins now!

  • Love this post! I’m wishing my kids were little again, so that I could read them these books. We did read all the Parr books, though. They’ve been around for a while now. And, I agree with April, that C is a lucky girl!

    • I remember seeing his books around (the illustrations are very distinct) but never actually picked one up. I’m not sure why. I wish I’d done so sooner, since C is juuuust about that age where she might start thinking them babyish. (In the meantime, I’ll have to squeeze a bunch in soon, ha!)

  • Lilly

    Love these! We checked out My Princess Boy from the library a while ago but L wasn’t that interested. We have talked about boys wearing dresses, mostly because her little brother LOVES to steal her tutus and butterfly wings LOL I tried to grasp a “teachable moment” the other night when she was dressing her mommy/daddy/girl/boy Calico Critter family by telling her that some families have two mommies, etc but she just rolled her eyes and said, “Stop bothering me, mommy, I’m trying to play Calico Critters. This is how they were dressed in the store” haha.

  • These are wonderful books! I’ve read all three of them to my children.

  • Words for Worms

    And Tango Makes Three is THE BEST. I swear, I got misty when the two male penguins tried to hatch a rock. Sigh.

  • Wonderful post, Monika! I think if you want to point out differences, that is okay, but I do recommend pointing out just as many similarities and emphasizing that differences are all okay and that while the differences make us unique and special, it is the similarities that make us all able to be friends and family with people who are different from us. That is how I tackled these type of issues as an early childhood educator, so just my two cents. I think your family is lovely.

    • These books already do that (especially the Todd Parr book) – I rarely point out anything in the books we read. C picks up on the concepts on her own pretty easily. 🙂

  • For your sake, I’m glad you did this but from the little I know of C and your family I’m not surprised at the outcome. You love and respect her and are raising her to be a kind person so if that is ‘different’ then it’s something we should all aspire to. The sad test will be if/when she meets people who are not so evolved and I hope that day is a long way off.