Welcome to the Family

9 Jul

Last night Mollie was reading an old finding out book about the body. She called me upstairs and asked “It says that when they grow up a man and a woman can live together and have a baby but it doesn’t say that a woman and a woman can, or a man and a man can. Why?”
Gulp!
She had been looking up belly buttons in the index and come across a very high level and outdated ‘making babies’ page. Mollie has two mums. We have always been honest with her and answered any questions that arise and she knows that the doctors put the man’s seed into my tummy to make her because we were two mummies. But this book dated from my childhood and it confused her. And I was the stupid mum who left it on her bookshelf.

Luckily, just a few days before, this gem had arrived through the door:

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By the inclusion dream team of Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith, Welcome to the Family follows in the footsteps of their previous non-fiction books Great Big Book of Families and Great Big Book of Feelings and explores all the diverse ways a baby or child become members of a family. It covers natural birth into a nuclear family, fostering, adoption, same sex families, surrogacy, IVF and more, all in their inclusive, child-friendly and humorous style.
I knew Mollie was in safe hands.

The overriding message of this book is that all families are different and all families are equally valid and special. A message that is so important for children and their families to hear and see. I wish something like this had been available when I was a child – what a lot of progress has been made in one generation. Hurrah to that. The sentence that is repeated and emphasised throughout is ‘the children are very welcome.’ No matter what the family make up, or how the child came into the family, they are welcome. They are special. They are valid. Affirming stuff.

Affirming, but also honest. I love that the Hoffman/Asquith dream team don’t shy away from honesty. They show such respect for the children that will be reading their books. They respect their right to see themselves portrayed in an honest and truly reflective way. So we see that families are complicated. Things don’t always go smoothly and children aren’t always perfectly happy. They show us reality. And that can be equally as affirming – seeing a family in a book that is going through a tricky patch just like yours is, seeing that it is normal and okay to feel angry and jealous and frustrated and worried and all the other million emotions that a child will go through. That is a hugely affirming and positive message for a child.

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Mollie’s friends come from all sorts of different families and came into their families in all sorts of different ways – they are all different and all special. Mollie knows that and is happy and comfortable talking about it. But a book that reflects that is such an important resource. Mollie has devoured it, reading it to herself and hunting through the illustrations. She has found her friends who are adopted, found her friends who are in foster care, found her friends that have blended families, mix race families, one parent, two parents, three parents… She has found herself and how she came to be in our family. All that from one book. Impressive stuff!

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I used it to support her last night. Imagine if every teacher or adult who works with children had access to a copy. Imagine the ways in which it could be used to help children see themselves and their place in families, to help them through a change in the family – a new sibling, fostering, adoption, a new parental relationship. To help them understand all the diverse families they will come across in their lives. It has such potential.

Perhaps Gove should scrap all his education reform and, instead of donating a King James Bible to every school, he could put a set of the Hoffman/Asquith books in every school library. He could change the world.

This wonderful book is due to be published 4th September 2014- just in time for the new school year. I’ll be getting a copy for Mollie’s school library and probably a few as presents for some beautiful families I know. But this copy is staying right here on Mollie’s bookshelves, replacing the outdated body book and ready to give her an affirming inclusive nod whenever she may need it.

Thank you Mary, Ros and everyone at Frances Lincoln for making this book available to her and all her peers. You have made a difference.

Source- kindly sent for review by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

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