Did you know that February is National Library Lover’s Month? We didn’t either – but now that it’s been brought to our attention, we are incredibly excited about it! Libraries provide a critical resource for communities – and they’re not just for checking out books or the latest movies on DVD. In addition to providing research materials and a quiet place to study, libraries offer free internet access, assistance with completing online job applications, and even genealogical resources. Many community organizations hold events, training sessions, and monthly meetings at their local library, and we’re no exception. Because so many libraries are centrally located in a city or county, Indiana Adoption Program often hosts educational events at them. Suffice it to say: We love libraries.
Another reason we’re excited about National Library Lover’s Month: it’s a chance to help kids in foster care experience something from childhood that they may have missed. Many youth who have spent time in the foster care system haven’t had the delight of being read to at library story time, or the “grown up” feeling of getting one’s very own library card. (Some of us here are old enough to remember when you could parlay reading books at the library into your own free pizza from a local restaurant – and that is a rite of passage that every child should have!)
Many foster and adopted children and youth have a hard time articulating the very complex feelings that go along with being in foster care or being adopted. And they may feel as though no one else understands their experiences. So another reason to love libraries and celebrate National Library Lover’s Month is because it’s a free community resource that can help foster and adopted youth know that they are not alone. Their specific circumstances are unique to them, but the mishmash of emotions they may be feeling, and the questions they have that they’re afraid to ask? Those are more common than many children know. And so they may find at the library lots (and we do mean lots) of books that resonate with them.
Did we mention that there are lots of books about foster care and adoption out there? We’ve shared just a few below that we have enjoyed, in hopes that you and your kids may discover a new book or two at your local library.
The Mulberry Bird (by Anne Braff Brodzinsky). This is one of our favorite books, in part because it doesn’t feel like a children’s book. The author addresses common themes in adoption stories, but does it through an elegantly-woven tale of a mama bird who is, quite simply, just having a hard time. She does her best and tries to go it alone – but ultimately has to seek the assistance of others for help with raising her baby. But along the way, this weary mama bird finds that by giving her baby the chance to be loved and raised by someone else, she also experiences healing as well.
The Invisible String (by Patrice Karst). This story is a great one for any child who has separation anxiety, but it’s especially poignant for children in foster care or who have recently been adopted. They may have a lot of anxiety about staying connected to their current or former caregivers, their biological relatives, or even their friends at a previous school. This charming book tells of the “invisible string” that connects people to each other, even when they’re not in the same physical location, and even when tensions and anger may be running high. The invisible string still connects us – and even better yet, it can’t be broken!
Far From The Tree (by Robin Benway). Anyone who has been around a young adult knows that one thing they dislike is being talked down to, or feeling like their big “almost adult” experiences are diminished by the adults around them. Far From The Tree is definitely not one of those books that “talks down” to the YA reader. A story about three teenagers who learn to navigate the sometimes messy world of unconventional families, this is a lovely book that has been described as “compassionate, funny, moving, [and] compulsively readable.” We agree!
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher (by Dana Alison Levy). The Family Fletcher series is reminiscent of books by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume: True to life, humorous without being flippant, and eminently relatable. We have lots that we can say about this “unconventional” family of two dads who have adopted four boys – but we think the New York Times said it a lot more eloquently than we can: “While The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher seems like the perfect book for children with two fathers or mothers, Levy’s underlying message has broad appeal: No matter who your parents are, or what their sex, no matter what you look like or whether or not you were adopted, your family, and everyone else’s, is absolutely crazy. And that’s just as it should be.”
Parents of Adopted or Foster Children
Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control (by Heather Forbes & B. Bryan Post). Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control is one of those rare “science-y” books that is actually easy to understand! The authors explain how trauma can significantly change a child’s brain…and their behaviors and ability to develop healthy attachments. They explore how traditional parenting techniques like a consequence/reward chart can actually create more difficulties for families, because of how the child’s brain has developed. Forbes and Post offer a different approach to help parents move past fear-based parenting toward healing.
Parenting From The Inside Out (by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell). One of the unique things about this book is that it doesn’t just discuss how childhood experiences shape the way an adopted or foster child may approach situations – it also looks at how our childhood experiences can impact the way we as adults parent. Like Beyond Consequences, the authors of Parenting From The Inside Out write about attachment and neurological research in a way that even the least scientifically-inclined among us can understand. (In case you haven’t noticed, we are fans of this type of writing!) Readers who are willing to examine their own life stories will probably get the most out of this book, and may find they have a stronger self-awareness as well as a better grasp on how to raise resilient, strong children.