families: 2 Articles

Representation Matters: The Power of Finding Yourself in a Book

Throughout my life, I have discovered that reading provides an almost miraculous way of changing the way I think. There is no medium that better offers insight into the perceptions, feelings, and humanity of someone who is different from us. Through reading we become empathetic. Through reading we evolve. I have often emerged from reading a book, and felt like I was changed. In that, even in this digital age, I know I am not alone.  As children, reading shapes how we see the world. The characters, places, and stories we come to love in our books inform us as to what life might offer us as we grow up, and our world begins to expand beyond our own backyards.  For that reason, representation in all books, and particularly in children’s books, can have life changing meaning. Just as it benefits us all to see and read about characters who have little in common with us, we all deserve characters in books who reflect our lives and our own varied experiences, as well. ...we all deserve characters in books who reflect our lives and our own varied experiences... I grew up in the early 1990's. I do not remember reading any children’s books with LGBTQ characters. I know some—though not many—were out there, and I am grateful for the writers who paved the way. Yet even with those books in existence, I do not remember being aware of them until I was an adult. As a kid, I did not see LGBTQ characters in books, which became one more subtle, but powerful, factor in making me feel abnormal, my life impossibly out of the mainstream. I have spoken to countless other LGBTQ people who reflect on similar experiences, and I know that is true across the spectrum of identities, as well. If they all feel a similar absence, one thing is clear: Fill it, and many young readers will feel far less alone. Since losing myself in a book was one of my favorite parts of growing up, I always dreamed of writing for children once I had the chance. Even so, when the time came to actually do it, I kept trying ideas that somehow lacked resonance. Eventually, frustrated, I almost gave up. What changed everything was a piece of simple yet profound advice from a friend: “Why don’t you write something that you wish had been around when you were a kid, or a book you want to exist once you have kids of your own?” From that piece of advice, Papa, Daddy, & Riley was born.  For me, this book, which follows a young girl named Riley’s journey of emotional discovery after she is asked which of her two dads is her “real dad,” meets the two thresholds my friend wisely put forth. I am grateful for the opportunity to write a book that answers a question pondered by many children, especially once they start attending school and meet people whose lives can look so different

Read More
Representation Matters: The Power of Finding Yourself in a Book 2020-05-16T15:44:48-04:00

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

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