About Michael Genhart, PhD

Michael Genhart, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in San Francisco. He is the acclaimed author of many picture books, including Love is Love, I See You, Ouch! Moments, So Many Smarts!, Cake & I Scream!, Mac & Geeez!, Peanut Butter & Jellyous, among other titles. He lives with his rainbow family in Marin County, California.

Finding Connection Through Music and Books

As the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic, many families find themselves being brought together or forced to be apart. Everywhere, people are looking for ways to stay positively connected. The little boy in Magination Press' book, Accordionly:Abuelo and Opa Make Music by Michael Genhart PhD, shows great creativity and wisdom as he finds a way to help his grandfathers connect through music. This post, from Dr. Genhart, explores the way picture books and music can help children and grown-ups connect with others. It’s a timely and timeless idea. Accordionly: Abuelo and Opa Make Music is the story of a boy who brings the two cultures of his family together through the music of the accordion – with the help of his two grandfathers, who do not speak each other’s languages but do speak the universal language of music. Based on my own family and memories from my childhood, this book is a joyful celebration of family and how common threads connect us all. More and more American families are multicultural, where different cultures come together to form a union of diverse languages, food, clothing, tradition, and ritual. Since children can sometimes feel like they are “not enough” of any one culture, it is important to offer them opportunities to celebrate the richness of all the cultures that make them unique. Children’s books are in a special position to affirm a child’s experience of being multicultural. The concept of “mirrors and windows” in children’s books highlights the many wonderful ways children can see the world, reflecting their own lives (mirrors) as well as introducing them to the lives of others that are not like themselves (windows). Similarly, the notion of “sliding doors” shows that stories for children can enable them to “walk into” other worlds. Accordionly: Abuelo and Opa Make Music is an example of how a children’s book can show all children that the world is a diverse place – some child readers will see themselves in this story while others will be invited to meet a family different from their own. Books where a child can identify with a main character in positive ways are tremendously powerful. They are doing some heavy lifting in that these books serve to bolster positive self-image and self-esteem. When kids see themselves in a book, in some cases for the first time, they can feel empowered, not alone, and not marginalized. In fact, children are likely to feel support, acceptance and love – important building blocks for positive development of self. Those children who are seeing a world unlike their own in books like Accordionly: Abuelo and Opa Make Music can confront any stereotypes or prejudices they may be holding, as well as begin to develop empathy and appreciation for diversity. Spoken language, particularly reading books aloud to children, is a powerful mode of communication. In Accordionly: Abuelo and Opa Make Music the accordion is a central character that shows that music is another potent means of communicating. In this story the

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Finding Connection Through Music and Books 2020-04-21T17:32:25-04:00

Rainbow Families and Colorful Mindfulness

Rainbow: A First Book of Pride links rainbows (who doesn’t love seeing a rainbow?!) to the rainbow flag (which we see throughout the world) and to rainbow families. LGBTQ+ families with two moms, two dads, one mom or dad, transgender parents, and parents of color are everywhere!  The flag is a celebration of pride during LGBTQ+ Pride Month especially, but it’s also an invitation to feel proud of who you are and proud of your family all year long. Rainbow is a book for ALL families who stand up for inclusion, equality, and positivity. Children grow up in all kinds of families, and every child should feel free to shout out the pride they feel for her family, regardless of its composition. Books and children go together. While access to books can vary, it is my hope that we are moving toward increasing accessibility of books for all children. And when children pick up books to read, it is important that they see themselves and their families reflected on the pages. Nothing is more delightful than hearing, “That’s me!” or “That’s my family!” from a child who recognizes herself in a story. Not only does this encourage further reading, but it also allows a child to relate to important messages contained in the storylines. Parents also light up at the sight of seeing their child engaged with a book. Their investment in books only grows when those books serve as mirrors of their own experience as a family. I decided to write Rainbow because, as a gay dad, there were very few picture books showing LGBTQ+ families when my daughter was young. I wanted to create a book that showed rainbow families going about their lives just like every other family. And Gilbert Baker’s original rainbow flag was turning 40 (1978 - 2018), so it was timely to show kids just what the different colors of the flag mean. I also wanted to join in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (1969-2019), which started as a protest and evolved into a celebration of queer pride. As a child and adult clinical psychologist, I also wrote Rainbow because after 30 years in practice, I continue to hear too many stories of LGBTQ+ individuals experiencing some form of teasing and/or discrimination. We simply need more children’s books depicting LGBTQ+ families in order to help reduce prejudice and increase total acceptance. While Rainbow may look like a book only for LGBTQ+ families, my intention is for ALL kinds of families to enjoy it. In American schools today, LGBTQ+ families are part of the community. While the reception of these families may be generally warm, unfortunately, this is not always the case – and both children and parents can feel this exclusion. Rainbow is intended to be a helpful and kind way to introduce queer families to ALL parents and schools, particularly those who have not shared in the community together. Many of us live in a very diverse world, and

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Rainbow Families and Colorful Mindfulness 2019-10-28T14:25:55-04:00