It’s Routine: Children Find Comfort & Security in Repetition

.It's Routine: Children Find Comfort & Security in Repetition.Kiss Good Night.61WD4351MQL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_In Kiss Good Night by Amy Hest and illustrated by Anita Jeram invites readers to peek in on one little bear’s resistance to falling asleep. It’s a scenario familiar to every child and parent so kids will readily respond to it. Jeram’s illustration are warm and evoke an intimate tenderness between Mrs. Bear and little Sam. As you can see, the cover shows mama and bear nose to nose. Her arm rests gently on his tummy. A red blanket is snugged up to Sam’s chin while he cuddles an armload of stuffed toys. A beautiful vignette.

She oozes patience–in a measure we all good follow–and shows how important each detail of a bedtime ritual is essential to little bear.  Bear insists that the ritual be followed in perfect detail. Eliminating anything is utterly unthinkable, especially on a “dark and stormy night!” This sweet story reminds parents that any attempts to short-circuit beloved bedtime rituals are undertaken at their own risk!

The illustrations are the powerhouse of this book. In some spots the text feels awkward, for example, “the blanket was red” versus simply calling it a red blanket. Nonetheless, the book will delight readers and parents alike as they share their own family bedtime ritual and enjoy the soothing comfort  that repetition and ritual sustain.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned Lens: Kids with trauma histories need and benefit from the reassurance and familiarity of family routines. This includes not only bedtime rituals but other daily and cyclical patterns that create a structure that establish a sense of being enfolded in ways on which kids can reliably and predictably depend. Routines and rituals can include elements that engage all of the senses: music, food, fragrances, touchable props, etc. Become aware of all the “ingredients” that a ritual includes. Be intentional in creating  routines that can promote security, bonding and healing.

It's Routine: Children Find Comfort & Security in Repetition

 

Here are additional books featuring Sam.

Books Help Kids Handle Grief and Loss

Books helps kids handle grief and loss which are inevitable parts of loving others. Books that both validate the depth of a child’s feelings and ease them over life’s rough patches can help children process their powerful emotions. Their world is small, their life experiences limited, and their life skills are just beginning. They experience emotions on a grand scale: elation, terror, delight, disgust, etc. When they perceive an imminent loss, fear crushes logic. By nurturing emotional literacy in our children, we strengthen them for the journey of life.

Cope love loss grief.wherever you are.51rmSaLK1rL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_Before tackling the difficult stuff, read books which reassure children and build a firm foundation of security. Nancy Tillman, author of the  NY Times Bestselling On the Night You Were Born, created a wonderful book that would be a great choices: Wherever you Are My Love Will Find You

This sweet book reassures children that the love which connects family bridges time and distance. The delicate illustrations suit the gentle, dreamy tone well. Although it never mentions loss or death, it’s  message would indirectly reassure kids who have faced the loss of a relationship, whether through divorce, death, or adoption.

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Adoption-attuned Lens Adoptees have intimate knowledge of deep loss and benefit from frequent affirmations of love. This book can be interpreted as both a reinforcement of the love of their adoptive family and can lead to conversations about their birth parents as well. Adopted children have a permanent connection to and interest in their birth parents.  They may find comfort in imagining their birth parents thinking about them with a love that can bridge difficult circumstances, distance and time.

Even if they came to adoption because of abuse and neglect, they may find solace in imagining some measure of positive connection with their birth parents. As always, validate the children’s feelings; if they can only conjure heart-broken, hurt or angry feelings. Empathize with how sad that must be for them. Eventually, they may be able reach resolution or forgiveness. Allow them to determine if and when that will happen.

books Help Kids Handle Grief Loss.the way i feel.51YcXIprCeL._SX453_BO1,204,203,200_

Exuberant illustrations dance across the pages of  The Way I Feel  written and illustrated by Janan Cain. It walks young readers through several moods and captures the intensity of their wildest feelings. Text spirals, bends and wriggles across the page. Color reinforces the feelings being described., for example, brilliant reds and oranges for anger, blues and turquoise for sad,

The story describes kid-familiar emotions : an older sib’s jealousy, frustration, disappointment, etc. With respect and validation, it describes these feelings in ways that help kids discern the difference between one feeling and another. This helps kids develop emotional literacy– the ability to accurately recognize, clearly express how they feel and then decide how to handle them. This is a vital life skill.

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Adoption-attuned Lens I began this review by stating: the proverbial Circle of Life inevitably links love, loss and grief. This is particularly true for adoptees whose lives have been uprooted from one family and grafted into another. Adoption requires kids to wrestle with very complex emotions. Having a broad vocabulary of emotions assists them in parsing out this patchwork quilt of feelings, relationships, losses and gains.

Reading a book about feelings helps convince kids that it is a permitted and welcome topic. Conversations can natural evolve from more general things to adoption-specific thoughts and experiences.

books Help Kids Handle Grief Loss. Ida Always. 51Aufwhsr8L._SY453_BO1,204,203,200_Ida, Always by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso is a sweet, two-hankie picture book that depicts how loved one’s imprint in our world and on our hearts remains after they die. It deals with death that acknowledges the sadness and grief and celebrates life and relationships.

A pleasure for eye, ear and heart, Ida, Always  focuses on sound to capture the loving relationship of two polar bears, the bustling zoo where they live and the vibrant city which surrounds them. (“Keys clicked and shoes clacked … buses groan,; trucks rumble …children laugh.” This encapsulates the theme: even when the people and places we love are out of sight, the sounds that surround us hold the audio track of precious memories.

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Adoption-attuned Lens Adoptees may find solace in a book like this because it invites them to intentionally search for and preserve good memories about relationships they have lost. Even when they lack actual memories, parents can help them imagine moments that his birth parents “might” have shared with them. Even kids with trauma histories are viscerally connected to their birth parents. They might benefit from finding some positive recollections, (Not to cancel out or invalidate any trauma or the reality of hurtful histories but as the first step to finding a way to heal any damage.)


books Help Kids Handle Grief Loss.Pancakes with Papa.61StzMzilAL._SY352_BO1,204,203,200_
The multi-award-winning book Pancakes with Papa by Dena Albergo Jason and illustrated by Rainer M. Osinger directly addresses a child’s loss of a grandparent. Johnny’s grandparents live with his family. They spend time together and have shared many memory-making moments. So, when his beloved Papa dies, his death leaves a large hole in Johnny’s life. His Nana brings Johnny around the house. She helps Johnny identify smells, sounds and memories of their time together. He learns to use these memories to trigger warm feelings that help ease his grief.

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Adoption-attuned Lens While everyone needs help coping with loss and grief, adoptees have a heavier load to shoulder than most kids their age. Whether they were adopted as infants or older, children may benefit from finding ways to see, hear, and smell the connection of lost relationships. Especially for adoptees with little information in their files, the exercise may rely more on supposition than fact. nonetheless, kids may find comfort in remembering or imagining magical, loving moments with people from their pre-adoptive lives.

The Essential Life Lessons We Must Teach Children

Kindergarten.51CieYvtuXL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Some essential life lessons we must teach kids:

  • Treat others with respect, compassion,  empathy.
  • Disagree without hate
  • Advocate without demonizing other points of view.

As adults, we must work to ensure our country lives up to its promise to provide “liberty and justice for all.” We must ensure our kids understand they are part of the solution and then we show them how to stand up for themselves without stepping on others. We must encourage them to be a force for good and to speak up for others instead of sitting in silence,or even worse–bullying or intimidating others.

Over twenty-five years ago, Robert Fulghum wrote All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It was a best seller that sold millions of copies world-wide. Today’s social climate demonstrates that we need to relearn these basic lessons of fair play and responsibility. Here are two books that will help us to teach them to our children and will serve as a worthwhile reminder to ourselves.

Ouch Moments.51oze-lcWOL._SX399_BO1,204,203,200_Ouch Moments: When Words Are Used in Hurtful Ways by Michael Genhart, illustrated by Viviana Garofoli tackles the topic of meanness in thought, word, action and inaction. Through very simple text, the author shows readers how to identify ouch  moments and how to respond whether one is the target or a bystander. Key points include:

  • Silence equals approval of the meanness
  • Responding in anger makes things worse
  • Seek out helping adults
  • Avoid replaying mean self-talk in your mind
  • Work together to be kind and resist ouch moments
  • Justifying meanness as funny does NOT erase the hurt

Ouch Moments is published by Magination Press, an arm of the American Psychological Association. Their books stand on firm ground. The multicultural illustrations are engaging and feature diverse circumstances. This would be an excellent read for the entire family; sometimes even adults need to be reminded of the important lessons Ouch Moments  strives to teach. This book includes an informative and practical Note to Parents and Caregivers.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: This book offers a fun way to talk about a very serious and painful issue. For adoptees, Ouch Moments can very easily lead to conversations about the adoption-related ouch moments a child has faced. Many children find it difficult to introduce this topic because they want to protect their adoptive parents from this ugliness and hurt. Other kids stuff these experiences but never learn how to handle them and never get the support which parents would willingly offer. Parents must consistently convey a willingness to discuss any difficult topic–whether adoption-related or not. We must reassure our kids that we are strong enough to hear the tough things and eager to be the safe harbor they need.

What were you thinking.51ISMHxAlNL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_What Were You Thinking? by Bryan Smith and illustrated by Lisa M. Griffin addresses common moments from a child’s life. As many parents and teachers can vouch, the answer to the title question is frequently that the child wasn’t thinking at all; they operated on impulse. Or, they were thinking but their behavior was highly unlikely to produce their expected result.

This book helps kids see that doing the first thing that comes to mind may not be their best choice. It might even accomplish the opposite of their intended goal. It also shows how kids sometimes expect something to be funny when it can actually cause others–classmates, teachers, coaches and parents– to be annoyed instead of entertained. Sometimes the “cost” of the laughter they seek, far exceeds the momentary rush of any attention.

The illustrations invite exploration of the book’s theme and make obvious that Braden’s idea of funny does not necessarily match his classmates” feelings. This can lead to conversations about the range of responses one can see within an entire classroom of kids.

What Were You Thinking? outlines a simple four step strategy which kids can practice to help them smooth out their responses and ensure that the result they get is the one which they want. A brief Tips for Parents and Educators is included which offers further information on how to guide children to develop better impulse control. Can also open conversation about intentions & how humor doesn’t lessen the pain of hurtful remarks/behavior.

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AQ Lens:
 
Kids who have experienced trauma, grief and or loss may have weak impulse control, high distractibility. Or they may have been taught negative and/or inadequate behavior strategies. In addition to learning better strategies, these kids may also have to unlearn negative strategies.

This book offers another tool for helping kids fine-tune their emotional literacy and expand their menu of choices. By exploring the gap between intended goal and actual results, families can teach kids to recognize and choose strategies that serves them better.
Diverse Children’s Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.

DiverseKidLit

We hope this community will grow into a great resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, August 6th and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

Theme Idea for August

We thought it might be fun to try having a suggested theme for the next linkup. Those who are interested in participating in the theme would have from now until the next linkup (August 6th) to write a post based around the theme and then share it with the rest of us. You do not have to focus on a given theme to participate in the linkup, but we thought it might encourage folks to explore and share new diverse books.

The theme for the August 6th linkup is … Diverse Books for Back to School. Please consider sharing a favorite book (or books) either about school / back to school or that might make a great read aloud during those first few weeks of school. We look forward to seeing your choices!

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

Our most clicked post from the previous #DiverseKidLit linkup comes from Acorn BooksChicken Man by Michelle Edwards. This book is the winner of a National Jewish Book Award and tells the story of a character named Rody, nicknamed Chicken Man, and how his joy in his work makes everyone on the kibbutz want to try his job next. Make sure you read to the end of the post for an incredibly-tasty looking recipe for Teigelach cookies.

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

Want to be notified when the next #diversekidlit linkup goes live? Click here to join the mailing list. Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie at thelogonauts.com.

(Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

 

Memories: Powerful, Evocative and Revealing

Memory.517sG+s3OzL._SX382_BO1,204,203,200_Even very young children recognize the signal phrase, Once upon a time so when they read Nina Laden’s evocative picture book Once upon a Memory they will intuitively prepare for a magical story. The gorgeous illustrations by Renata Liwska have a soft-focus, watercolor-type glow that perfectly serve the story and capture a dreamy, time-traveling mood. Detailed drawings expand the spare text and invite further exploration of the thematic ideas.

Simple rhymes lilt softly on the ear, enhance the dreamy mood and encourage young readers to explore beyond the obvious into their own personal experiences. Colored font highlights key words and further spotlights the connection between the item in its current state  back through time to a former state. For example,

“Does a feather remember it once was … a bird?”

Each page offers a chance to delve deeper into the questions and discuss how change occurs in people, places and things. One could simply enjoy this wonderful chance to ride the magic carpet of imagination and fantasy. Or one could use it as a path to some simple STEM activities—science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: For adopted children this book can offer a path to conversations about their past. For example, the final pairing, “Will you remember you once were … a child?” could naturally evolve into discussing their thoughts about their life story before they were adopted. Older children might wish to express any what-if thoughts  about how their lives might have been different had they never been adopted, or if they’d been adopted by other parents.

(Many adult adoptees say they had these thoughts but felt afraid or unwelcome to share these somewhat scary and unsettling thoughts with their adoptive families because they did not want to hurt their adoptive parents and/or seem disloyal.}

Parents can nudge children towards a conversation like this through indirect questions like, “Some kids (note the absence of reference to adoption,) wonder how events in their lives might be different, for example, if they didn’t have their family pet…” Kids can then decide if they want to make the conversation real personal or keep it general.

Sharing a book like Once upon a Memory, reassures a child that his thoughts are safe to share and allows parents to comfort and reassure their child with unconditional love and acceptance. While it can be awkward to have such Difficult Conversations, it is important to do so. And to offer the possibility on a regular basis.

We never want to force  a child to talk but it is essential that we sincerely convey are willingness to do so as well as our ability to be strong enough to hear our children’s thoughts. Don’t mistake a child’s resistance as disinterest. (And please do not breathe an audible sigh of relief when they decline to talk about adoption “stuff”. Parent and child both need courage, empathy, and compassion.) Use your best adoption-attuned intuition to identify what is behind their reluctance. They may simply need more convincing that our invitation is genuine or may not be ready at that moment. Children are interested–and probably a bit wary and uncomfortable–but they still benefit from such conversations.

Billy Bramble Thumps Funny Bones and Pulls Heartstrings


Billy Bramble.515-+CZmAhL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Author, adoptive mom (via foster care,) columnist and award-winning activist, Sally Donovan understands adoption, adoptive families and the challenges faced by families raising–and loving–children whose lives began in trauma. Humor, candor and vulnerability infuse her writing. Until now, Sally has written for  adults and her books offer a refreshing resource. Reading them feels like having an honest chat with a friend who really understands the heart-palpitating roller-coaster journey that adoptive family life  can be.

For many reasons, I am a fan of Sally’s writings. She shuns candy-coating, admits that adoptive parenting can be gun-shot-to-the-chest frightening, and still so, so worth while. Platitudes and rose-colored glasses take a back seat when Sally writes. As a consequence, her books ring with authenticity, encouragement and community.

Sally’s newest undertaking is a wonderful book for middle grade readers that thumps funny bones and pulls heartstrings. Written in the first person, the Billy Bramble, loser, croppedtale provides a peek into the inner world of one Billy Bramble. Not identified as an adoptee, Billy definitely serves as the poster child for kids wrestling with the demons of trauma. (The origins of his trauma are not revealed. This helps to make the story connect with a wide audience)

On the surface, Billy is a character that the world finds difficult to love and accept. He’s disruptive, mouthy, uncooperative, provocative, and disorganized. As the saying goes, if it weren’t for bad luck, Billy would have no luck at all. The world views Billy as “trouble”, an inconvenient and annoying thorn that pricks and frustrates others. He has few friends.

What he does have is a constant companion: Gobber–an imaginary but very powerful companion embodied as a wild dog. Tyrannized by Gobber, Billy “wonders why no one else can see him, or hear him, or feel him.” The malevolent Gobber “scares [Billy] half to death” actually. With heart-breaking honesty, Billy asserts, “I think that Gobber is my life sentence.”

Loser trophyPoor Billy suffers as much from Gobber’s destructive behaviors as his family, classmates, and teachers. Gobber’s presence is so formidable, so consuming and so committed to Billy’s failure, that the reader empathizes with Billy’s struggles and cheers for his success. The brilliance of Sally’s writing allows the reader to feel Billy’s anguish and frustration as he struggles to rein in his self-saboteur.

 

Billy longs to relax his vigilance, walk through his days without Gobber nipping at his heels, terrifying and Facebook the chickendistracting him. He yearns to have the privileges and self-control of other kids and like them, to have his own Facebook account. The closest he can come is to name his pet chicken Facebook. I know, right. Talk about a stacked deck! Fortunately, Donovan counterbalances the stresses of Billy’s challenges with a healthy dose of humor and irony. She succeeds in making Billy a character that readers root for instead of dismissing him as “other” or someone whom they can pigeonhole as odd or weird.

 

Black and white illustrations provide a welcome break from the text and expand it well. One features a teacher's admonishmentslitany of teacher-corrections and directives familiar to all kids, but especially the Billies of the world. Readers will identify when Billy receives a letter from the teacher that reports on his latest transgression. We all know what it is like to have to face the aftermath of a poor choice.

For most of us, this is a relatively rare occasion. But, for Billy, it is the constant refrain of his day life. As much as his parents and teachers wish Billy could pull himself together, Billy wants it even more earnestly. But not Gobber; he wants to keep Billy trapped in a Mixmaster of fear, worry and anger.

cook offThe one spark of hope for release from Gobber’s reign of terror is cooking. It provides Billy an exit ramp from the super highway of chaos and creates a place of refuge and redemption for Billy. Gobber makes a formidable enemy; he does not  surrender easily.

Several recipes are included, Kids will especially enjoy “Angry Pizza” which involves pounding dough which is a great way to channel frustrations. Plus, once complete, it tastes delish!

Parents can enjoy this book for the valuable insights it offers into the struggles of kids like Billy. Billy’s folks are well-intentioned, committed to supporting their child. And they are quite human. They get frustrated, angry and don’t always give the perfect response. Yet it is clear that they love Billy and intend to stay in the trenches with him.

Will Billy finally meet success, defeat Gobber, and win the Great Cook Off? Read this delightful book to discover the answer. While you’re at it, check out Sally’s other books!

Watch this video to hear children speak of their struggles.

No Matter What.51Sjnv4NxAL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Unofficial guide to Adoptive Parenting.41Ntr10lrNL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_ I originally posted my reviews of  The Unofficial Guide to Adoptive Parenting and No Matter What  on the blog I write for GIFT Family Services: (Growing Intentional Families Together.) They are exceptional books that merit a place on every adoptive family’s bookshelf. For adoptive families it is a drink of water that helps slake a desperate thirst for resources that are both honest and practical.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: Kids who are dealing with the aftermath of trauma–especially trauma associated with family disruption, loss and adoption–will recognize a kindred spirit in Billy without his being specifically identified as an adoptee. I think this will reassure young readers to learn that trauma originates from many sources, not only from adoption. This expands his community of potential peers.

Readers will connect with the empathetic tone of the book which clearly depicts both Billy’s heartfelt desire to succeed, behave and control his life. This lack of judgment and blame will be welcome.

*I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Our theme for today’s Diverse Children’s Books linkup is Diverse Book(s) Featuring a Character with a Disability. (Need ideas? Check out past winners of the Schneider Family Book Awards.) (The theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are always welcome.)

What Is #DiverseKidLit?


Diverse Children’s Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.

DiverseKidLit

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

Our most clicked post from the previous #diversekidlit is ADA’S VIOLIN: THE STORY OF THE RECYCLED ORCHESTRA OF PARAGUAY from Linda at The Reader and the Book. This story is based on the true origins of the Cateura orchestra in Paraguay, and Linda’s post contains a great summary of the book as well as additional information about the author, illustrator, and real-life orchestra!

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

Gayle Swift, Author of ABC, Adoption & Me  Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Google+

Jane @ Rain City Librarian  Blog / Twitter / InstagramMarjorie @ Mirrors Windows Doors  Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest

Mia @ Pragmatic Mom  Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest / Instagram

Myra @ Gathering Books  Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Guest Host for September: Shoumi Sen, Author of Toddler Diaries  Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Want to be notified when the next #diversekidlit linkup goes live? Click here to join the mailing list. Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie@thelogonauts.com

(Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

Get #DiverseKidLit Recommendations on Pinterest!

We’ve started a new group board on Pinterest to highlight all the amazing posts and resources for Diverse Children’s Books. Please consider following the board for even more great books!

 

 

 

Happiness Is…

happy. Pharrell.510abOYfFcL._SX407_BO1,204,203,200_It feels appropriate to conclude the month of February with a final nod to affairs of the heart. Beyond romance, each of us yearns to love and be loved. We wish to be seen and accepted as our authentic selves. We need to be appreciated for our differences as much as for what we have in common with family and friends. It is our differences that make us unique. This acceptance is difficult to achieve.

Ironically, it is often our own selves who are the most challenging to convince. That’s why a book like Happy by Pharrell Williams is an excellent choice to read as a family. The lyrics of Pharrell William’s song form the text of the book. Before reading this book, play the song. Can you feel your body itching to jump up and move? Go for it! Encourage your child to do the same.

The photo illustrations are wonderfully diverse and capture the energy of the song well. The notes included as back matter are n added bonus. Pharrell invites readers to become a Happy Helper, sprinkling seeds of happiness and contributing to the creation of a better world. This book is a delightful five star read!

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: It is easy to get lost in the habit of waiting to be happy. We clutch the negative aspects to our hearts and minds to focus on what is missing; on some event/result that awaits us in the future; on the the conclusion of some restriction; on the accomplishment of some goal, etc..

We must teach our children to take the time to enjoy the blessings of what and who are in their lives in the present moment. This is not to invalidate their losses, yearnings and unfulfilled needs. Rather it is to teach them to hold a both/and mentality. (Although in adoption circles we usually think  about this concept in relation to valuing and respecting both birth family and adoptive family, this mindset is beneficial for all aspects of their lives.)

We truly bless our children when we succeed in teaching them how to hold and enjoy their life in spite of their trials, disappointments and losses–those rooted in adoption as well as those losses and frustrations originating elsewhere. To some extent, happiness is a practice we must learn to cultivate. It is an important skill we can teach our kids. Along the way we can carve out time to connect through having fun together which is a proven way to strengthen the ties that bind families together across time and distance.

Remember to look for reasons to be joyful; our personal example is our most effective teaching tool.

 

Happy in our skin.61UbYd7biJL._SX458_BO1,204,203,200_

The title Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Lauren Tobia pretty much captures the message of this book. Richly diverse illustrations capture children and their families in various activities. Readers will notice that regardless of ethnicity, culture or physical ability, families interact and love the same. Children will also learn that skin has important function: “It keep the outsides out and the insides in.” All people have this in common. Skin presents obvious differences as well: color, texture, freckles, dimples, even goose pimples.

Happy in Our Skin can create an easy opportunity to have some important conversations about race. This can help parents lay the groundwork for tolerance, acceptance and for the end of racism.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens:Race matters. “Color blindness” is a misguided strategy for nurturing racial harmony and racial identity. It is essential for transracial adoptive families to have consistent conversation on the topic. Parents must ensure that they are encouraging a reality-based discourse not one that is sanitized because it is easier to pretend race is less of an issue than it is.

Adult adoptees who were adopted into transracial and/or trans-cultural families have raised their voices to proclaim the absolute necessity to tackle issues of race with courage and openness. Happy in Our Skin offers an easy conversation starter. Like many difficult adoption-connected conversations, it is best to begin discussions at a young age.

This accomplishes two things. First, it affirms that parents want to talk about it and are capable of hearing the real story. The good. The bad. And the ugly. This allows parents to provide loving support for children facing tough experiences themselves. It also educates children who are not transracial adoptees to have empathy, understanding and a willingness to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Second, it prepares children with information, strategies and validates their true experiences.

 

Being Rich

Studio shot of gift wrapping items.During the holiday season it was easy for both children and parents to focus on the buying and giving of presents and to lose sight of the real blessings in our families. Now in mid-January Christmas lingers only in our memories. The thrill of gift-giving has faded but the joy of friends and family gathered in celebration remains a treasured memory. As adults, we understand that the truly valuable things in life bear no pr$ce tag. Their valuable is intangible and immeasurable.

How do we help our kids balance the present moment reality and attraction of material things and help them learn to appreciate the intangible blessings of their lives?

Table where Rich people sit The Table Where Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor and illustrated by Peter Parnall offers a gentle and appealing reminder that real wealth lies not in our possessions but in the relationships and experiences that fill our world. Like beauty, being rich, is in the eye of the beholder.

Written from the child’s point of view, the story focuses on her frustration with her parents. (This feeling is one with which most kids can identify at one point or another.) To her, they seem oblivious to their obvious poverty and disinterested in pursuing better-paying jobs. As the family gathers around an obviously homemade table, she recalls, “They even had a celebration when they finished it.” She is both puzzled and annoyed by their resistance to improving their financial situation, so she calls a family meeting to discuss her parents’ lack of ambition and their disinterest in the trappings of material wealth.

Her parents willingly engage in the discussion and appoint the girl the family bookkeeper.

The first thing she wants to know is how much money they earn in a year. Father advises, “We have a lot of things to think about before we add them up.” Mother says, “We don’t just take our pay in cash…”

The story continues with the parents mentioning all the intangible treasure that enriches their lives. It concludes in the girl’s words, “To tell the truth, the cash part doesn’t seem to matter anymore.” Seated at their hand-made table she decides to write her family’s story. The title comes to her easily: The Table Where Rich People Sit.

magnifying lens AQ.2#AQ Lens This book does a great job of demonstrating the value of a family and proving that true wealth lies not in material possessions but rather in healthy, reciprocal and loving relationships. Most importantly, it  accomplishes this without preaching that kids should be grateful for their families. Instead, it concentrates on helping them see the intrinsic value of a value.

Too often adopted children are told that they should feel “lucky” they were adopted or people suggest that they should be grateful for being adopted. Such advice is misguided–even if well intentioned because it trivializes the significant losses inherent in adoption. People would not think of posing such a question to a child who was not adopted and remained with his biological parents.

Someone Wonderful Is Coming

Something Wonderful.612ElbG3o9L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Regardless of specific faith, the holiday season focuses on family, generosity and being a light for others. They Told Us Something Wonderful Was Coming written and illustrated by Bev Stone,  beautifully captures the joy which envelopes a family as they anticipate a new child’s arrival. The narrator explains to the reader that the entire world recognized that “something wonderful was coming.” Animals and insects, clouds and rainbows, all quivered with joyful anticipation. And what could ignite such wonder and excitement? The arrival of a new child of course!  The story concludes creatures, great and small “somehow, they knew about you!”

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 (1)AQ* Lens: This story serves a feast for the eyes and the heart. Delicate watercolors fill each page depicting the manifest ways that the world brightened in anticipation of a marvelous event. Each page turn delivers a unique moment of excitement that builds the reader’s excitement as he wonders what could provoke such happiness?

All of us–child and adult–love to hear and feel that are arrival was celebrate. The age of the child on whom the story centers is not specified; it could be a baby, toddler, teen or any age in between which makes this story a great fit for adoptive families.  Many books honor the anticipation and arrival of a new baby but rarely do we find a book that expands the arrival of a new family member who is older. As adoptive parents we know how important it is for older children to feel welcome, important and special. Five stars

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Full, full, full of love.51a0ldDzfzL._SY490_BO1,204,203,200_Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cole is another story that elicits warm, snugly feelings. It follows a grandson’s visit with his grandmother. Together they prepare the Sunday feast for the extended family. Jay Jay is excited to  spend time with his Grannie. Their tender connection jumps off every page. Grannie keeps Jay Jay busy “helping”  which distracts him until everyone arrives. It also teaches an important lesson about work: it is not a punishment but rather a way of showing how much we care. Young children yearn to “help”; often it is easier for adults to deflect their awkward attempts because it is easier for adult to do it alone. This story shows how if draws the boy closer to his grandma and reinforces the desire to work.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 (1)AQ* LensFull, Full, Full of Love depicts an African-American family in a universal  experience. Aunts, uncles, and cousins gather for a home-cooked meal at Grannie’s. It’s not to observe a holiday or some major event but simply to celebrate the blessing of being a family. I appreciate the ordinariness of this.  

This book would be a wonderful choice for any child, regardless of race. It serves to depict the commonalities we share and thus, is a great choice for advancing a multicultural awareness.

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And Here's to You..51ccZotpV8L._SX452_BO1,204,203,200_And Here’s to You,  by David Ellitott and illustrated by Randy Cecil is an exuberant riff on tolerance and respect for others and the universality of our experiences. Cartoon-like illustrations pair with a refrain that carries throughout the book. Whether it is birds, bugs, cats, dogs, bears, or all manner of people, each is wonderful and valued. Now that is a message we all enjoy hearing. Again and again and again.

 

 

 

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 (1)AQ* LensFull, Full, Full of Love depicts a variety of characters both animal and human and infused with diversity that is the foundation of the story’s premise. It reinforces another important concept of unconditional love: “Here’s to the sweet you/The messy and the neat you/ the funny-way-you-eat you/ The head to your feet you…Oh, how I love you!” Kids can never get enough reassurance that their parent’s love is not conditional on behavior, looks or anything else.

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“You Can Do It!

You Can Do it.61Sy9tW0zOL._SX218_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_FMwebp_“You can do it!”  Those are words we all like and need to hear. The belief which others have in our ability fuels one’s own courage, willingness to try and persist through to success. This is especially true for children. They need our focused attention and thrive under the positive expectations of parents and teachers. (Equally true, kids who constantly hear negative, discouraging or demeaning messages, absorb those as well. They soon learn to expect little of themselves.) The self-fulfilling power of expectations is well documented.

What a delight it was to discover You Can Do It which was written by #1 New York Times best-selling author and professional football player Tony Dungy and illustrated by Amy June Bates. In the story, Linden wrestles with feelings of doubt and shame. Teachers mistake his restlessness for mischief. Linden can’t seem to figure out who he is and who he wants to be.

With the mentorship of a patient older brother, the encouragement of his parents, and the compass of the family’s Christian faith, Linden learns to notice and value his unique talents. Now, the success of those around him inspire him instead of making him feel inferior.

You Can Do It is upbeat and not overly preachy.  The wonderful illustrations by Amy June Bates depict Linden and his family feature a middle-class African-American family living in a multicultural community. I like that You Can Do It  depicts African-Americans in successful, professional occupations, e.g., Linden’s dad is a scientist and the family dentist is also black. This is an important for all readers, regardless of their own race.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 (1)AQ Lens: I believe this book transmits an important message for kids who were adopted. Because information is frequently missing, they may have to struggle harder to recognize and appreciate their talents. The message of You Can Do It  is that sometimes it takes time for one’s gifts to manifest themselves and it doesn’t lessen their importance. Parents must be alert for indicators of potential talents that their children may possess and will want to nurture them–especially those that diverge from the adoptive family’s “typical” choices. Be intentional about encouraging children to be their best selves, so they develop all their abilities even those which “stand out” from the family’s history. Both parents and children will be enriched by this diversity.

For families who have adopted transracially, it is a plus to see a family of color that is not the stereotypical struggling urban family. This is also an important example for families who are not racially mixed as it helps them step beyond the limited view of success as primarily limited to Caucasians. All families can benefit from the earnest values espoused: hard work, persistence, faith, community, studying etc.

A five star read.

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Tony Dungy has written fifteen books. In addition to his children’s books, he has written several for adults as well. He  supports many charitable causes. Visit his author page on Amazon for details.

Rollercoaster! Fear and Adoption

Roller Coaster.61wIPs5uftL._SY497_BO1,204,203,200_I really enjoyed reading Roller Coaster, a delightful book written and illustrated by Marla Frazee. What a treat! The story begins with the crowd waiting in line for their turn to ride the coaster. Young and old they stand, radiating enthusiasm, reluctance and many moods in between as they face the prospect of their impending roller coaster ride.

Fear pulses through the crowd; some shiver with anticipation. While others quake as they wait. “At least one of them has never ridden on a roller coaster before,…ever.” As a person terrified by roller coasters, I could easily identify with the few reluctant riders depicted among the large group of enthusiastic passengers.

Readers–child and parent both–will delight in scrutinizing the detailed illustrations for hints about how the characters are feeling about their roller coaster journey. I particularly enjoyed the two burly men who struggled to restrain their fear and stay in line. Once the ride starts, they strain to hold onto the contents of their tummies! The characters include a diverse range of ages and races.

Young readers will readily identify with the story line because all kids regularly must confront their fears. (Sometimes the object of their fears my seem small and innocuous to adults, but to the children, they are vivid, frightening and powerful.) Kids must muster courage to overcome these fears. Each time they do so, they increase their confidence and sense of competence. The book concludes with a comment: “Most of these people are dizzy. Some of them have wobbly knees. But at least one of them is planning to ride the roller coaster again … right now!” You will have to read it to find out who it is.

magnifying lens AQ.2IQ lens: Parents often wonder how to help teach their children emotional literacy –an important life skill. Roller Coaster offers many excellent opportunities to discuss feelings, especially fear. Since many adopted children wrestle with fear of rejection and of not being good enough as well as a reluctance to risk failure, this book offers a fun opportunity to talk about feeling scared, of confronting anxiety. It may even open a conversation about some of the things they worry about or fear in regards to their adoption.

Roller Coaster also points out that some prospective riders change their mind and decide not to ride. “Sometimes even those who are tall enough [to ride it] decide they don’t want to.” This too is a good example of how one must listen to one’s “gut”. Perhaps it will require several attempts to overcome a specific fear. There’s no shame in that.

Simply stepping into the line and staying there for a while is a productive step. In fact it takes the same kind of courage to leave the queue as it does to stand up to peer pressure. This  is another discussion thread that could logically evolve from reading this book. 

Roller Coaster also brings a vigorous dose of fun to the shared reading experience. High AQ* parents know that this is a valuable and indispensable ingredient in attachment building. I highly recommend and rate it five stars.

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AQ*: Adoption-attunement