My family in books
There is something magical about the joy that suffuses a child when they recognise something of themselves in a book, whether it is an object that’s like theirs – ‘my yellow welly’, a pet ‘cat, cat, cat!’ – or themselves and their family. The delicious shiver of recognition is potent and powerful because it tells that child: you are seen, you are included, your life is part of books, and so are you.
Here are my favourite books for our youngest readers about families.
Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer (Little Tiger Press, 2021)
This sturdy board book is one of a series by Sophie Beer. Love Makes a Family is bright, full of detail, and depicts aspects of daily family life that every child and parent will recognise – from hunting for a shoe under the bed in a messy bedroom, to being woken up too early by noisy children! There are all types of families in this book: same-sex parents, grandparents as the main carers, single parents, and a diversity of ethnicity too. It is funny, joyful, and kind and lovely book to evoke chat and connection.
Where’s Lenny? by Ken Wilson-Max (Alanna Max, 2020)
This rambunctious book brings playing hide-and-seek to life! Lenny’s Daddy closes his eyes and sings and counts: ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, once I caught a fish alive. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 then I let it go again!’ And the game is afoot. Lenny takes his Daddy on an adventure around the house where they meet the family dog, Mummy fixing a light and eventually find a giggling Lenny hidden under the duvet. Familiar, funny and full of warmth this is a read-aloud, read-along joy!
All Kinds of Families by Sophy Henn (HarperCollins, 2020)
Sophy Henn brings her inimitable illustrations and incredible non-fiction prowess together to create a non-fiction book about different types of families. The opening pages show a gallery of different types of families. The rest of the book explores how the animal world creates families in a multitude of ways as well. We find out that daddy emus raise their chicks, grandmother orcas often look after young orcas while their mothers are hunting, and that adoption also happens in the wild! Stuffed with facts – that were new to me – this book highlights Sophy’s messages that all families have one thing in common: love!
My Grandma and Me by Mina Javaherbin and Lyndsey Yankey (Walker Books, 2019)
This gentle and unusual book has been a massive hit in school. Many children are brought up by their grandparents and this book shines a light on the relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter. Told in the first person and set in Iran we learn about the rhythms of daily life, and the importance and reverence that the little girl has for her grandmother’s chador. Many of the children adored seeing the chador in a book and stroked the pages lovingly. The illustrations have a different style and bring Iran’s beauty to life.
Author bio: Little Wandle Programme Developer Charlotte Raby is an early reading expert and children’s author.