Book Review: Adoption Books that Celebrate Culture

Posted by Big Universe on Nov 8, 2012 5:00:14 AM

November is National Adoption Month.

Odds are pretty good that you are part of an adoptive family or know an adoptive family. According to the 2000 US Census, more than 1.6 million children under the age of 18 live with their adoptive parents, and more than 100,000 children are adopted each year.

Thanks to international adoptions, the fabric of our society has become even richer, with families celebrating the heritage and cultures their children bring with them. According to the US State Department, between 1992 and 1999, the number of children adopted from abroad more than doubled from 6,720 to 16,396.

Every year since 1984, when President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week, the US President issues a Presidential Proclamation that launches activities and celebrations to help build awareness of adoption throughout the nation.

Thousands of community organizations arrange and host programs, events, and activities to share positive adoption stories, challenge the myths, and draw attention to the thousands of children in foster care who are waiting for permanent families.

With adoption so integrally woven into the fabric of our nation, National Adoption Month offers us a chance to share stories that celebrate family, friendship, culture, and diversity. Three of my favorites for home and classroom are the As Simple as That series by Deb Capone and Craig Shemin.

Dumplings are Delicious
by Deb Capone; illustrated by Stan Jaskiel
As Simple as That, 2005

Rain, a six-year-old girl, loves to make jiaozi (jow-za), a Chinese dumpling, with her mom. When she takes some to school for lunch one day, she learns that all over the world, families love to create, fill, and share dumplings.

  • This is a picture book that introduces diversity by celebrating the things cultures share in common.
  • The author introduces Rain's adoption story again so you don't have to read any of the other titles to understand the context of this one.
  • The story is sweet, with the emphasis on each child's curiosity and discovery about another's culture.
  • The story is simply presented, with layers that parents and teachers can use for their own purposes (culture, geography, diversity, etc.)
  • Parents and teachers can introduce a topic and then build on it with “real life” activities. Whether it’s cooking, learning more about a culture, or role-playing, there is plenty to share.

Families are Forever
by Craig Shemin and Deb Capone; illustrated by John McCoy
As Simple As That, 2003

Rain, a six-year-old girl tells us her story of how she came from China to live with her Mom and Bo, her stuffed hippo. This is a first-person story about becoming an adoptive family.

  • The story has great universal appeal. The story emphasizes how families come to be, with adoption playing a role, but not taking center stage to the love itself.
  • Children of all ages and cultures will relate to Rain and the relationship with Bo, her hippo.
  • Because of our child's questions, we were able to introduce a "second plot" with our own adoption story. Although this is a story of Chinese adoption, we didn't feel limited by it in our situation (which was a domestic adoption).
  • Every family can enjoy this story. It can help young children write their own story, adopted or not. It is a great way to introduce adoption as a concept of love.

Tooth Fairy Tales
by Deb Capone; illustrated by Stan Jaskiel
As Simple as That, 2005

Rain and her classmates are losing their first teeth. When Rain loses her first tooth, she starts to wonder what the Tooth Fairy does with all of those baby teeth. That's when she learns that there's more than just the Tooth Fairy collecting teeth. This is a story about the ways different cultures celebrate the magic of losing your baby teeth.

  • This is a fun story to read, as there is something for everyone to learn.
  • The story is broad, allowing children to understand that losing teeth is natural, and everyone celebrates the event in their own way.
  • The illustrations are simple. The writing clarity and child's perspective take the "fear" out of the process for kids.
  • Depending on audience age, you can talk about myths and legends, growing up, diversity, and geography, as well as contrast/compare similarities and differences among cultures.

If you're interested in reading about other adoption-themed books this month, we have a collection at the Reading Tub. We've also done some research on children's books about adoption on the Family Bookshelf.

We'd love to hear about the adoption and culturally diverse books you have on your shelves, too! So please share in the comments.

Topics: Classroom Ideas, Personal Experiences

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