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8 Children’s Books About Non-Traditional Families

November 25, 2020 By Denise Mckenzie

In today’s world, more than ever, parents need to understand how diverse and different each family varies from the next. And it’s a beautiful thing! Unfortunately, many of us parents, even those who grew up in the nineties, know that embracing such diversity is a relatively new “universal” concept. When we were kids, it was hard to find mainstream children’s books that would feature non-traditional families. At the dawn of a new millennium, we had many fantastic but very heteronormative nuclear family-themed books (movies, tv shows, and media, in general) despite our want and need to represent ourselves and our friends. 

We know from real-life experience that no family unit has quite the same dynamic. It’s discouraging to realize when, as children, we were learning that countries such as the United States are supposed to be the prime example of a “melting pot” society.  In reality, it’s just not true based on how minorities experience living in our culture. It has taken multiple generations to evolve and progress to a place where we know that the cookie-cutter ideal of the “American Dream” is only welcome to some folks. 

Fortunately, we are closer now more than ever to genuinely offer full-inclusion as a human right. We’re certainly not there yet as a species. Still, the best thing we can do individually is to show our children from a young age that yes, we all may be different and experience different family and living situations. We all are also the same: HUMAN. In the recent history of the metamodern world’s most turbulent and digressive times, we also know that now more than ever, it is essential to represent and support each person as they are and every family as they end up being. 

The Best Children’s Books for Different Types of Families

Check out this fun and compelling list of children’s books we curated that focus on different types of families. 

The Family Book by Todd Parr

This book gives children a glimpse into the lives of all sorts of families. It’s an excellent introduction for young children to understand their friends and neighbors who may have different backgrounds. From adopted or biracial families to single-parent and same-sex couples with children, this book covers a myriad of domestic situations to help the kids understand the importance of family, no matter how it presents itself.

Credit: toddparr.com

Get the book here.

Fred Stays With Me by Nancy Coffelt

This heartwarming book’s plot is of a young girl who struggles after dealing with her parents’ new divorce. Luckily, Fred stays with her. Always. This incredible story is for kids as much as it is for adults, proving that maybe if you look outside of the box, goodness will come from a significant life event that seems so world-crushing at first. Most would designate the family pet to one house or another after breaking up. In this story, the child protagonist ensures that her best friend is with her through thick and thin, which can be a great opportunity and lesson for all kids and their families.

Credit: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Get the book here.

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian and Mike Curato

Worm Loves Worm is the most adorable tale of two worms who fall madly in love with each other and want to get married. But, first, they realize an existential dilemma – Who wears the tux? Does it even matter? Their friends want to know, and frankly, the worms don’t care. Worm loves Worm, and that is all that matters in this beautiful picture book that teaches acceptance.

Credit: mikecurato.com

Get the book here.

Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Another picture book, Julián Is a Mermaid, shares an uplifting story about a young boy and his relationship with his Abuela, and how he perceives how she may accept him or not. It turns out she does, and this fantastic book sheds light on the insignificance of traditional gender roles, especially for young children. It’s all about self-love, and Julián and his loving Abuela capture it perfectly.

Credit: Candlewick Press

Get the book here.

Sometimes It’s Grandmas and Grandpas, Not Mommies and Daddies by Gayle Byrne

Not only is this award-winning book incredibly touching, but it also highlights the critical roles of grandparents. Particularly, how often grandpas and grandmas end up caring for their grandchildren regularly, even becoming legal guardians in some instances. In this book, the protagonist is a happy-go-lucky kid who is quick to tell anyone who’ll listen how much love she has for and receives from her grandparents.

Credit: Abbeville Publishing Group

Get the book here.

Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman and Laura Cornell

This updated book meets us with the most relevance in our contemporary world. Originally printed ahead of its time in 1989, the updated version by Laura Cornell is still on point. LGTBQ+ literature is often overlooked, especially in previous decades. This magnificent story is timeless and proves to be so in each coming year by telling its special story of two mothers who love their family more than anything. 

Credit: Candlewick Press

Get the book here.

Emily’s Blue Period by Cathleen Daly and illustrated by Lisa Brown

This one is for the younger kiddos to better understand and deal with sensitive situations like divorce. Parental separation can be very hard on a child. Emily has always expressed her feelings as an artist, and her parents breaking up has sent her into her own “Blue Period.”  This story teaches children coping skills and how to be resilient through difficult times. 

Credit: Roaring Brook Press

Get the book here.

Mixed Me! By Taye Diggs and Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Taye Diggs’ story is of a multiracial boy who loves celebrating his uniqueness from the outside back in. This colorful, expressive book says everything that any kid tries to when they only want to be themselves. Hairstyle freedom is a central theme in this story, and “If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.”

Credit: Feiwel & Friends

Get the book here.

Inclusivity is key. 

These progressive children’s books offer a soft education in diversity, especially when it comes to family components. Use them as a tool to educate your child, check the boxes on your holiday gift list, or even introduce another friend or family member to the ethical and constructive possibilities of inclusivity. From families with two moms and kids raised by grandparents to divorced and bilingual families, there is no “prototype” for what family means.