Resources for Parents
In my role as a parent, and a coach of parents, I like to share books and resources that I find valuable. This is by no means comprehensive, just a list of some of my favorite things, from baby sleep to the sex talk. Some will be right for your family, and you may shake your head at others, that’s totally fine! Each of us finds what works for our family. I hope some of this is useful to you. If you see something I left out, please let me know and I’ll link to it. (I could especially use resources about gender and disability for little kids).
First, join (a) parenting group(s).
This will save your butt again and again.
* Baby Sleep Training: The Basics – This article gives you an overview of various sleep books so you can get a sense of what might work for you. I started out rigidly against co-sleeping (keep reading…), thanks to the much appreciated advice of a co-worker and friend that it was pretty hard for them to undo it once their kids grew up. So I was judgy when I learned that my best friends were co-sleeping with their son. Then I woke up. They are literally my favorite people on the planet and great parents, so clearly, co-sleeping was the right decision for them. A parenting group that I joined reinforced that for me even more. My philosophy about the “right” sleep strategy for your family is that it’s whatever works for your family. You are unlikely to break your kid, despite what so many sleep books will tell you (plus they all have contradictory advice about exactly what breaks kids, sheesh!).
* On Becoming Babywise – We fell into the category of “Other Approaches” for our first child, and mostly followed this book that was a gift from a friend that saved us on the exhausting third day of being. Our son mostly slept through the night (6 hrs?) by about four months. We followed this book until it got into rigid schedules, which didn’t fit our family style, and our son was sleeping well enough that we didn’t need it.
* TheScienceOfMom’s Sleep Story – Our circumstances changed, and we didn’t follow the Babywise plan with our daughter. She didn’t sleep through the night until we sleep trained (on Dr’s advice) at 10 months. I liked this blog’s take on a research based approach which does include some cry it out strategies, but breaks down what exactly the research says about cry it out and stress.
Fun With Developmental Leaps
* The Wonder Weeks – This is my go-to baby shower gift. This book is based on years of observational research of watching thousands of babies and analyzing patterns. There’s a calendar that shows you when your baby is likely to go through developmental leaps and may act weird, or when they should be pretty easy. It also has great tips about how to play with your kids, like telling you that at about 17 weeks, if you put beans in a jar and turn it over, your baby will giggle uncontrollably. Adorable.
* Experimenting With Babies – Fun experiments that also let you see when your child has made a developmental leap or just mess with them (harmlessly).
Talking With Babies & Toddlers About Race
Yes, this is a thing. Recent research shows that children take in messages about race much earlier than we think, and that it’s better for us to start a conversation early, or they will get an unspoken message that race is taboo. (Which, it sorta is, but shouldn’t be). If my experience is any guide, I think our parents mostly focused on eliminating racial prejudice that was widespread when they were growing up. They mostly didn’t teach us how to talk pro-actively and progressively about race, difference and how to stand up with people who are different and against bullies.
* RaceConscious.org – A site with first hand stories from parents who talk with their young children about race as well as a growing set of resources. The founder of this site also founded Border Crossers (below) and works with parents who want more support. I spoke with her a number of times & found it really helpful. Full disclosure, I guest blogged on this site.
* Border Crossers – There’s great advice in the resources section of this site that were developed for talking with older kids about race.
* What White Children Need to Know About Race – a long article with a thorough discussion of how children perceive race much younger than we thought (6 months old!) which also takes us through how and why to talk with kids about race and strategies for raising critical thinkers who will be prepared to stand up for a more equitable society.
* Any book you are reading. Seriously. We talk about how the duckies are yellow and the kitties are fuzzy and ask where the eyes are. It feels a little weird at first, but try saying things like: “There’s a mommy kissing that baby, how sweet! The mommy has yellow hair. We call that blonde. She has white/pink/light skin and sometimes we call that White. Oooh! Look at that cute baby. He has brown/black/dark skin, and beautiful dark eyes, and the cutest curly hair. It looks like he’s Black, or African American. Oh, this poppa and baby are giggling. The baby has nice almond shaped eyes, like you! The poppa has straight black hair and light/golden/white skin, just like your poppa. It looks like they’re Asian too!” Kids notice race, and if we don’t talk about it, we send the message that there is something wrong that has to be kept secret. When we do talk about it, we give them positive language to use and can begin to share our values and build their sense of self worth about their culture.
As my son has gotten older (now 4), I’ve gotten a little more complex in how I talk about race. When I’m wondering about the race/culture of a character I might talk about it out loud, or when I notice something wrong, I’ll say what I see, and what I think/feel about it, and ask my son what he thinks. “Huh, this book is about Ninjas, and the author is Asian, but it looks like all the people in the book are White. That doesn’t seem right to me, what do you think? Sometimes people who sell books think that they’ll sell more books if there are White people in them, but I don’t think that’s right. I like reading books with different kinds of people in them.”
* Global Babies – Great board book with lots of different kids from all over the world in it.
* Part Asian, 100% Hapa – Simple book, very neutral portraits of Hapa people, answering the question “What are you?” in their own words, and a small annotation about their background. We keep it by the bed and often have fun flipping through the photos, picking a few and talking about them. Brings out the complexity of race, culture and ethnicity and shares a lot of different ways that people feel about their heritage and themselves. (Also, read this article for ways that these kinds photographs of mixed race people feed into their own set of racial stereotypes: “What It Was Like Being Mixed-Race Photographed By National Geographic.”
* Mixed – Same author as above, but with people who are a mix of races, not necessarily including some Asian heritage. This book is focused on pictures of kids and does a better job of showing a fuller portrait of people (more than just their faces and it includes their own clothes and personal style).
* The Sneetches – We were just a part of a #BlackLivesMatter teach in and march for kids organized by The Colorful Mamas of the 99%. They used this book to talk about difference and then have age appropriate discussions about how we can support our friends who are the same as us and different from us. (Play with all the kids. When someone is being mean to a friend because they’re different, go stand by our friend and hold their hand, etc)
* Separate is Never Equal – A beautiful book that follows Sylvia Mendez’s family as they challenge and end (the legal structure of) school segregation in California. A complex book that shows segregation from the point of view of a child, as well as glimpses of the strategies that grown ups use to challenge inequity. Nice cameo showing people of other races supporting her legal case. The really challenging thing about this book is that chances are, your child’s school is still pretty segregated. Now what?
* My Brother Martin– Dr. Martin Luther King’s sister, Christine King Ferris, writes about him as a child. She includes the kinds of silly mischief that he gets into, as well as examples of the discrimination he saw his father face, and a moment when they are told they can’t play with their White friends. As a child, Martin tells his mom that he will ‘turn the world upside down’ and the book shows some examples of King’s work as a civil rights leader. It ends with the poem, “You Can Be Like Martin.”
* Si, Se Puede! Yes, We Can! – This book is written in English and Spanish and Carlitos’ mom and other Latin@ janitors as leaders, organizing and winning better wages. Carlitos figures out how to get his class involved in helping. A good springboard for asking children what ways they think people can make change, and to help them figure out a role for themselves.
* My Princess Boy – A mom talk about her son who is Black and likes to wear dresses and wear crowns. The book tells about how she, his family, friends and strangers respond to her Princess Boy.
* The Family Book – This is a colorful book by Todd Parr, which shows lots of different kinds of families. It is a good way to show a wide variety of family configurations, as well as creating appreciation of different family cultures (touching on gender, race and class, without saying so). Todd Parr has a lot of these kinds of books which highlight different aspects of tolerance and appreciating difference.
* Anh’s Anger – A great book about facing our feelings featuring a Vietnamese boy and his grandfather. It’s a great way to help kids learn about sitting with their emotions instead of trying to shut them down. My son will actually sit down and take deep breaths when he’s angry (sometimes) thanks to this book.
* Does Anybody Else Look Like Me? – This was the first book I read about being a parent of a multiracial kid – there aren’t many out there, so I thank her for writing it. It was pretty good, though I got the sense that (like me) the White mom writer was going through facing race for the first time in her life (at least in this very personal way). For example, she was very protective about any questions about her children’s race/ethnicity/background, which my husband and friends of color have fielded their entire life. My husband and friends sometimes bristle about the “What are you?” question, and sometimes don’t mind, depending on who they are, what the intent behind the question is, and what else is going on that day. I didn’t feel like this book captured that nuance.
More Books & Materials About Race and Justice
There are a bunch of sites that compile lists of books which are worth checking out.
* SF Public School Mom – Allison Collins’s site has a section dedicated just to books which include lists of books for Women’s history month and books to start conversations about race. (Along with a lot of other good pieces on equity, education, and parenting). While you’re there, check out an adorable preview for a documentary about different Families.
* Oakland Library – Resources for talking with children about race and justice.
* #FergusonSyllabus – A crowdsourced list of resources for teaching children about race, discussing police brutality and working for justice.
* SFUSD BlackLivesMatter Library Guide – Resources for teachers (or anyone who talks with children) about why and how to talk about Ferguson.
* Language Lizard – Site with a wide selection of books in non-English languages, some are American/English books that have just been translated (the kids might not match the language or story), but others are cultural stories told in their own language.
Race & Justice Resources to Share With Preschools (and other groups)
If you want to support your school, church, mosque, brownie/scout troop, library, etc in talking with kids about race, here are a few sites I’ve found.
* Six Elements of Social Justice Ed – Great site by educators that highlights a manageable number of books for younger children which teach an element of a social justice curriculum, from “Self-love and Knowledge” to “Taking Social Action.” Each book comes with a few ideas about how to teach with it.
* Teaching Tolerance – A project of the Southern Poverty Law Center (great people), it has a lot of books, films and other resources that are searchable by child’s age. There’s a free packet for teachers.
* Teach Peace Now – A site of resources developed by educators. All free. The site is a bit of a mess right now, but I’m keeping this here with the hope that the links are fixed soon.
Problem-Solving (Toddler to Pre-Teen)
* Is This A Phase? – This is the book I keep coming back to when I’m trying to figure something out (my kid is getting hit/is hitting, won’t go to bed/won’t get out of bed…etc) It is based on developmental stages so it gives you a sense of what to expect at certain ages and good approaches for behavioral issues.
* Without Spanking or Spoiling – This book isn’t a “do this” book as much as a book that teaches you how to observe what is happening when there is a behavior you want to change, and develop strategies for adapting or changing the behavior. The appendix is a handy cheat sheet for common problems like “Whines, Fussy Eater, Dawdles (isn’t ready in the morning), Trouble getting kids to bed at night…”
* Anh’s Anger – A great story book that teaches your children (and you) to be with anger and let it pass. My 4 year old has asked me to read this book on days that he’s had a temper tantrum, and he’ll occasionally actually go be with his anger and breathe.
Raising Boys… & Girls… & Kids of Any Gender
I like these books which focus on the special issues facing boys or girls. I know I need to broaden the books on gender (please suggest your favorites in the comment section!). For now, we just talk about how there are boys and girls, and there are also people who we might think are boys when we look at them, but who are girls (or visa versa), and that the important thing is that people get to decide for themselves if they are boys or girls. If we know someone well, we can ask them if they are a girl or a boy, but we don’t ask people we’ve just met. This is super condensed & simplified, for grownups who want to know more, check out: Gender in 12 Dimensions.
* Masterminds and Wingmen – I love that this book is developed with the input of hundreds of real live boys, and that there are boy editors that shaped it. It comes with a guide written for boys. It also talks about gender (including advice on coming out) as well as race and gives kids strategies for standing up when they see discrimination. It’s not perfect though, it doesn’t discuss the reality of urban violence, how to navigate that and encounters with the police (see Ferguson), though it has a whole chapter on something called Lacrossholes. Minus one star for that, but still a useful book.
* The Healthy Sex Talk – Teach your kids, (yes, boys too), about consent (sex). This is a great article I just found that starts at age 0. I’m going to start doing more of this. (Sorry to all the kids that have gotten automatic bear hugs when closing out an “I’m sorry” or for goodbyes!). I don’t think I’m going to do the full bath time consent thing, bathtime will never end!
* How To Talk To Boys About Sex And Consent. Here’s a great discussion with Rosalind Wiseman (Masterminds & Queen Bees author) and Charlie Kuhn that has a lot of good detail including specific strategies on how to have these talks over time, and how to help your child ‘be that guy/girl,” the one that can intervene and stop something bad from happening.
* Queen Bees and Wannabes. This book’s claim to fame is being the book that Mean Girls is based on. It’s non-fiction and doesn’t include Tina Fey, but it’s still pretty great. It includes tips for supporting your daughter (or another person) who seems to be in an abusive relationship. As a grown woman, I thought, “Wow, this is helpful for managing office politics and grown up dynamics too!”
* Cinderella Ate My Daughter. I love how the author navigates girl world with her daughter through the book. She goes back and forth about what she thinks is right, which I think it the reality of thoughtful parenting. She also doesn’t ban things she questions (like princesses) from her daughter, but instead engages her daughter about what they mean. She gets an extra star for writing a near perfect, detailed prediction of what will happen with Miley Cyrus, months (years?) before it happens.
I’mJulie Roberts-Phung, a parent, longtime organizer for social justice and career and leadership coach. If you’re curious about coaching, you can book a free, no-obligation sample strategy session to ask questions and try it out.