Books That Fit Your Definition of “American Family”

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.

As the holidays charge forth, many teachers reach for their tried-and-true holiday read-aloud bin. It can be very tricky to select just the right text for the holidays. November and December are wonderful months to expose our children to as many cultures as possible and share how different families celebrate holidays in their homes. I encourage teachers, librarians, and literacy advocates to use this time of year not only to explore rituals, traditions, and core values, but also to recognize and celebrate the different kinds of families our children have.

Like many of our literacy partners, we are always looking for fresh stories that demonstrate the core values of the season: empathy, respect, gratitude, service, honesty, community, self-reflection, and responsibility. What better way to teach these abstract concepts than with books that reflect our students’ experiences at home and relationships? when this world was new

In my own classroom, I had children who lived primarily with their grandparents, half-siblings, second cousins, one parent, were split between parents’ residences, or in foster homes. My classroom community was far from exceptional in this regard, as a recent New York Times article noted the changing trends of the “American family.” How powerful it was for my students to read and identify with characters whose homes, relationships, and families looked like theirs. By the same token, it was just as valuable for my students to learn that their classmates’ homes and traditions were often different from their own.

Below you will find a cultivated list of titles for the holiday season. We have selected books that encourage students to expand their definitions of what it means to be a family and how images of “traditional” and “nontraditional” families are portrayed in books, along with some specific Christmas narratives. Happy reading!

Authentic Family Portrayals:

Abuela’s Weave
Antonio’s Card
Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic
Bowman’s Store: A Journey To Myself
Chachaji’s Cup
Children Of Long Ago
Coming To America: A Muslim Family’s Story
Family Pictures
Gettin’ Through Thursday
Goldfish And Chrysanthemums
Home At Last
Home To Medicine Mountain
Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji
In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers
In My Family
Journey Home
Juneteenth Jamboree
Kiki’s Journey
Love Twelve Miles Long
Mama Elizabeti
Mama’s Window
No Mush Today
Only One Year
Raymond’s Perfect Present
Seaside Dream
Sky Dancers
Summer of the Mariposas
Summer Sun Risin’
The Have A Good Day Café
Under the Mesquite

Christmas Stories:

Christmas Makes Me Think
The Storyteller’s Candle
When This World Was New

Core Values:

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning
Love Twelve Miles Long
Rent Party Jazz
Under the Lemon Moon
Xochitl and the Flowers

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