99% of the books I screen are dreadfully bland, contain problematic messages, or are just not a good fit for our mission. My standards ridiculous. Lots of awkwardness and unpaid emotional labor having to gently explain why I'm not gonna feature your book. No thanks!
I don't do paid reviews, because eww. How could our community trust me if I'm gonna boost books written by the highest bidder? Seriously - yuck.
However - if your book isn't published yet, and you're looking to avoid pitfalls (your book doesn't have to be bland, problematic, or irrelevant!), book a consultation and I can give you advice on how to make the kind of book I'd LOVE to feature in Books for Littles.
Even if you hire me for a consult or contribute to support this site - assume I won't feature your book here. Our shared goal is to raise kind & courageous kids, not to direct our community to makers with the most cash to spare.
"Hi! I'm sliding into your DMs to tell you that I have a problem with / really enjoy [BOOK TITLE]."
"I was wondering if you could take a few hours to purchase that book, read it, analyze it, and personally educate me about it."
Do I want to do that? YES.
Do I have time and spoons for that? Nope!
The easiest way to ask me about a specific book is to make a comment on the website on a book collection where that book is relevant.* That way, if I reply, everyone learns from it.
The worst way to ask me about specific books is to hunt down my personal contact information to ask for a free, private tutoring lesson on critical book analysis. Inappropriate! More than a little creepy and invasive!
The best way to pick my brains is to pay me for my work, and nerd out about about books with me and like-minded nerds is to join the Luminary Brain Trust and start a discussion post!
If you really, absolutely must keep our discussion private, you can book a private consultation. If this education is so valuable to you that it's worth googling my home address and hunting down my secret social media page, it's worth paying for, right?
*Since some of our unpolished rough-draft posts were originally created for paying memoers of the Luminary Brain Trust, I didn't include commenting functionality. And then I opened them up for free public view to help educators through Covid. It'd take forever to individually retroactively turn comments on each post, so I apologize if you want to comment on a book collection, but can't. Commenting is also not available on our Raising Luminaries Bookstore, since I don't control how Bookshop.org does their thing.
Most likely reasons I haven't included your suggestions in an article in Books For Littles
Possibility #1: I haven't had the time to personally screen it and test it with kids.
I don't recommend books that I haven't read, and that haven't been personally approved by Actual Real Live Children. Anything else seems unethical, right? We're screening thousands of books each year, but I have to sleep sometimes.
Possibility #2: I considered it, but it sucked a little (or a lot)
This is not a judgement on you. Just your read on this particular book. Folks get so angry when I dislike a book they love!
Maybe your favorite book is fine for one specific topic or perspective, but throws another targeted group under the bus, or reinforces some problematic concepts. Most books do.
Or I tested it with kids and they hated it or found it bleh. If you'd like me to pour time and effort into explaining why your fave is problematic, you can read through the archives to get a better idea of how subtle messages ripple into systemic injustice, or book a 1-on-1 consult if you'd like to skip months of reading and value my time in personally educating you.
Possibility #3: The maker has harmed people and has not acknowledged, apologized, or made amends
Sometimes individual books are great, but they're written by rapists, jerks, or ass-hats. Or the broader body of the maker's work does so much damage to targeted people that I'm just generally holding a grudge and unwilling to drive readers and profit to them.
There are so many hard-working, awesome authors, illustrators, and publishers in the world struggling to get their story into the right hands to do real good. Why clutter up the place with assholes?
Possibility #4: I can't afford it
If it's not available at the local library, I can't afford to buy a personal hard-copy to screen & test with real kids. Until our 40,000+ monthly readers cough up 10 cents to pay for what they consume, we're still operating on sweat and fumes. I still can't afford to pay for shelter and groceries for my family - there's just no budget for purchasing books.
And no, I can't use digital copies, or read-alouds to test books with my kids. Even if the read-aloud itself isn't theft of hard-work and intellectual property (it usually is!) - reading a hard copy book with kids is where we generate the best conversations.
Possibility #5: My kid-testers aren't the right age to screen it
My kids are getting older, and can no longer adequately give an #OwnVoices perspective on whether books for younger (or older) kids are engaging and anti-ageist. I'm slowly finding ways to work around that by collecting younger kids for honest reviews (not in a creepy kidnappy way!) but since I don't have funds to pay for that, those will take more time.
I've vetted tens-of-thousands of books, screened a few thousand of those with my kids, and have extensive notes on all of them. Trust me - if I sent you a book list, it would be so overwhelmingly useless.
The reason Books For Littles is so popular is that I curate the books for you. Depending on your background, the ages of your kids, and where you are on the spectrum of 'Not all men,' and 'I'm not racist,' to 'Let's set things on fire and smash the kyriarchy,' different books are going to be empowering, problematic, or even harmful in your hands.
I haven't yet met a reader who has managed to read every single book I've written about, and I've only had time to write about less than 5% of the topics we need to discuss.
If you want customized book recommendations and guided reading discussion questions tailored to your family or organizational - schedule a consult for 1-on-1 attention.
If you really have read every post in the full archive of articles and want to get notifications when I update or add new posts, subscribe to the newsletter for updates.
Okay, I know this isn't a question, but I get this A LOT.
Content warning: Teen suicide, pearl clutching.
From a one of my many critics:
My goodness, how can we expect three and four year olds to take such responsibilities at such a tender age. Children learn by example. Discrimination and misogyny is transmitted by adults to young children. It’s the responsibility of the adults around them to set the right behavioral examples. To burden such tender minds with the sins of so many generations before them is unfair. No wonder so many teens have trouble coping with their lives and end up committing suicide.
- Mercedes Borzyskowski, commenter on Captivating Kids Stories To Recognize Privilege
How can we expect three- and four-year-olds to survive in a country where their parents’ partners are murdered during a routine police stop for a broken tail light, at such a tender age? I suppose that’s Diamond Reynolds’ daughter’s problem, not ours.
Children form implicit (unconscious) bias from infancy – even when our parents don’t consider themselves ‘racist.’
Click here for only one of many, many sources, explaining the damage of relying on color-blindness and oblivion to keep wealthy white folks happy at the expense of the rest of us. (I found that one on google in less than 15 seconds, you do the rest yourself.)
Even if our kids aren’t watching biased TV news showing Trayvon Martin, a child victim of gun violence as a ‘hooded thug,’ the bias embedded in our culture is everywhere – from the toy aisles of Wal-Mart to the cartoons and children’s books we read.
Children learn by example – and the examples we set in the world, choosing to clamp our hands over our ears and shut our eyes tight for the sake of those tender (white, male, cis, etc.) young ears is a direct act of ignorance and violence against children who have no choice but to deal with the fallout of denying inequity.
These sins of violence, casual discrimination, and oppression do not just belong to previous generations. The sins belong to my parents’ generation and my parents take responsibility for that. The sins belong to my generation, and I own that responsibility, too. The sins belong to my children’s generation, and you bet your pearls my sons are both eager and competent enough to fight for equality.
The ONLY way to fix inequality is to acknowledge something is broken and step up. Reading books about homeless children and fostering open discussion on how we can avoid judging and actively help families facing this hardship is our responsibility as decent human beings.
Citing child suicide as an excuse for sitting still while our children harm others is irresponsible, derailing, and dismissive. It’s cruel to drag this trauma into the conversation for anyone who has suffered the loss of a child or loved one in the name of a pearl-clutching ‘Oh think of the childrens!’ arguments. I’m not even going to rip that flawed argument to shreds because the incidences of discrimination, dismissal of mental health conditions*, and other societal factors that force a child to resort to suicide are so blatantly at odds with the idea of raising our children to become kinder and more responsible.
*I had previously written 'mental illness' but that term stigmatizes and pathologizes neurodiversity, so let's not do that anymore.
I don't recommend books I can't personally screen. That would be unethical (and childism!) for me as a grown-up to recommend kids books without running them by *actual* kids. Since my oldest became an earthing in 2021, I try to avoid recommending anything for much older kids and be transparent when a book is too advanced for my kids.
However, many of our readers are parents of pre-teens, and are even college professors who use our work to demonstrate the topics we discuss. The picture-book format makes for a short and easy lesson. Picture books are nailing it these days. Some of them have a depth of complexity beyond most of the adult literature I read on the side.
We focus on picture books and reading with young kids to take advantage of anti-child bias and the ageism embedded in western society. The topics we discuss are radical, but we slip in under the radar of white supremacists, incels, and eugenicists, because they think a few exhausted parents and their little kids aren't a threat.
But oh. We are a threat. We got some Sun Tzu battle-strategy up in here.
Also - at some point, the 'Littles' in 'Books for Littles' starts to lose meaning if we're writing for older kids. Why would you come to a website called 'Books for Littles' in search of a book for your teenager! That is so weird! Teenagers are HUGE! So I'm gonna do a hard cap at age 10, and we'll figure something out for older kids when we get there.
But if that's not satisfying enough - I do have a short reference list of books I liked, and am looking forward to reading with my kids when they're old enough. To tide you over. Check out our Big Kid Book Club (10+) list on our Bookshop store page.
My dream is to Willy-Wonka Books For Littles
I need a Charlie! This work is exhausting, and I'd love to hand it over to someone with free time and unique insight at the intersection of multiple targeted identities. If you can replicate this, PLEASE TAKE THE HELM OF BOOKS FOR LITTLES.
I want this work to outlive me.
- Identify where the world needs healing: Each month, review current events, ways to support the planet as it revolves through the seasons, upcoming advocacy initiatives, holidays, topic on oppression and justice that we need to teach our kids about, and feedback from our community members on what challenges they are facing while surviving and raising the next generation of leaders. Set aside 15-20 hours/week for this. More if you're a slow reader. After the kids are in bed is best. Set aside 4-6 hours/week for this.
- Find kids books that might facilitate hard conversations: Request the maximum number of holds your library will let you borrow on your areas of interest this month. Make sure you donate to your library to compensate what you can afford for the sheer pounds of books librarians have to lug around for you. Even if you already pay taxes. Set aside 30 minutes/week for this.
- Dig into your ignorance: Read articles and books (for adults), watch documentaries and listen to self-advocate speakers, attend educational community events, and reach out to organizations and individuals working at the grassroots level. Listen carefully. Don't make what you're learning about you. Set aside 15-20 hours/week for this. More if you're a slow reader or this topic is new to you. After the kids are in bed is best.
- Make a praxis plan: How will you incorporate transformative justice and personal responsibility in your daily life, so it's not just something you talk about? Set aside 10-20 hours/month to do tedious things like building rainwater runoff drainage systems, facilitating racial justice workshops, and being an unpaid self-advocate guest speaker for local events. (Or paid, if you grew up with support the resources to invest in a phD or the social skills to make powerful connections.)
- Decompress: If you have the time and resources, I advise you do some self-care here, as the stuff you just learned is probably going to break you. I can't afford the time for that, so I eat my overwhelm in the form of a half bag of onion rings every night after the kids are asleep. I do this during my quality parallel play time with my partner, while we binge Netflix, so I don't count it as work hours. I also head to our Luminary Brain Trust for emotional support and to hold myself accountable for keeping it up.
- Pickup Books: Head to the library once a week with a large rolling luggage case to pick up your books. Browse the children's shelves for new arrivals, if you can. Expect the library trip to take 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on whether you have access to a transportation and a local library.
- Request more books: When you get home - request the maximum number of holds ASAP. You will pick them up next week. Repeat this every week, year-round. This will take about 30 minutes each week to narrow down your choices and make requests online.
- Screen out fluff: Screen the books you've picked up. Take notes on the obvious filler, the bland books not worth reading, and set them aside to return. Don't waste your children's precious few minutes of childhood on these. You'll get a good sense of what your kids have patience for after a few years. If it's on the fence, put it in the pile of books for them to test. For 100 books, this takes me about .5-1.5 hours. You may need longer if you're slow reader. Seethe in fury at how enthusiastic publishers are to publish mediocre abled white folks who feel no shame churning out rubbish. (Add a chocolate bar to your nightly onion ring binge).
- Test & gather feedback from actual children:
- Most 'children's books' are written by adults, for the adult gaze. This is childism in action. As adults, the only way to ethically recommend childrens books for children is to ask actual children if they recommend them. Using the books your kids will probably like, and the terrible-no-good ones, test these with your kids.
- Even though you have deadlines on specific topics to meet, space themes, and sprinkle in fun books that make your kids laugh. Do not read more than one gut-wrenching book about trauma, human trafficking, the refugee crisis, climate disasters, or other book that will send your family into a tailspin read only one truly horrifying book each night.
- When learning about the oppression of others: To counter stereotypes, victim-blaming, and reductionist bias: Balance each of these books with 8-12 books that depict people within these targeted groups as celebrating, normalized, silly, adventurous, sci-fi fantasy, and dealing with average kid problems. Good luck finding books like that not about abled white boys though..
- When learning about the oppression of your own family/group: Read these sparingly, alongside copious books about resilience, accomplices, and using the practices I outline in our wealth inequality series. If possible, have a non-family support network on hand to help kids manage first and secondary complex trauma. I hear those exist?
- Re-read the same books again tomorrow, and repeat, until your kids ask you to stop. Take note of how many times they wanted to read each book, and how enthusiastically they asked to read each book again.
- DO NOT FORCE your kids to finish books that they find bland, boring, or traumatic. Even if it has a good lesson. You can discuss this lesson without forcing them to read an ineffective book. Forcing a shitty book will just make your kids resent the subject matter.
- I read and discuss these books with my kids for 1-2 hours/night, 7 nights/week. Our kids are 2 years apart, and distract each other, so I usually do a separate story-time for each kid while my partner plays video games with the other kid. I don't even know how to do this as a solo caregiver. As a kid raised by a single parent, I learned now to read from a kid at daycare and read to my mom as she fell asleep. Try that maybe?
- Manage the timing of returns: Check in weekly with your library to make sure you screen, test, and analyze books before they are due. And that you pick up holds off the hold shelf before they expire. Spend 15 minutes/week on this.
- Prepare your books for return: Take copious notes on the actively problematic violent garbage books. These will be your most useful weapons in unpacking the kyriarchy with the kids. This will take 4-6 hours each week.
- Update existing book collections: Revisit old book collections you've already published, and add good new finds. Now that I'm doing 24/7 pandemic parenting/homeschooling, I no longer have time to do this, but maybe you do?
- Write up a collection, book analysis article, or whatever: Now you still have to share what you've learned. Everything hinges on your ability to convince people to read what you've written, take a step to end injustice, and maybe read the book you're talking about. Obsess over headlines. Accept 'good enough' with embarrassingly sloppy copy-editing. Expect each post to take 15-20 hours to write, edit, format, code, and publish.
- Pass the mic: Make sure to boost an organization or advocate who could use some visibility in each post. Expect 1-2 hours of research for new finds to make sure the org you're supporting isn't secretly evil. We have google, there's no excuse to crowdfund for hate groups like Autism $peaks.
- Debase yourself: Ask for the thousands of people who use your content to please, pretty please, pay for the content they consume. Thank with heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for the 0.75% of people who actually do. Obsess over the right way to convince readers that your life is worth sustaining (.5-2 hours/month).
- Deal with the fallout of being a non-silent disabled person of color on the internet: Spend an hour or four each week fielding detailed personal requests from people who can't be bothered to contribute to your patreon community, so they don't say nasty things about you on the internet that could destroy everything you've worked hard to build or call child services on your family. De-escalate doxxers, trolls, and pearl-clutchers. Respond with grace to white commenters who claim you don't know what the word 'racism' or 'decolonizing' means. Breathe through defensiveness when you do actually get something wrong or misuse a word. Breathe through despair when folks tell you you're not doing enough. Micro-mediate to mitigate feelings of despair and desperation when a white woman gets payment and accolades for republishing what she learned from your free labor.
- Take good care of the people who make your work possible:
- Interrupt working anytime your kid runs in howling with stubbed toe or hurt feelings, reminding yourself that this matters more than what people think of you on the internet. Plan meals, wash dishes, mend clothing, run errands, find lost stuffies, clean up legos, facilitate playdates (pre-pandemic), brainstorm ways to get kids to socialize on zoom post-pandemic. And cook dinner (2-6 hours/day).
- Support the braintrust community who contribute funds that keep your kids fed, maintain a healthy support community, and inspire you to keep going. (2-4 hours/week)
- Miscellaneous: Fix broken links, website bugs, search for the overdue library book your kid wedged into Narnia. Call your parents. Prepare dinner for neighbors in need. Donate outgrown clothing. Prepare birthday celebrations for the kids. Remove all the dust from your house to prevent your kid's asthma attack. Do the bare minimum in personal grooming and maintain a moderate level of anxiety over the health of your marriage, cause your partner is the one who pays all the bills and you're keenly aware of how screwed you'd be if he gets tired of your nagging him to flush the toilet. (All the other hours).
You will need to set aside a minimum of 91 hours/week for this job. This is not an exaggeration. Do not expect a living wage. BUT - if you succeed, you can help thousands of people raise the next generation of kind & brilliant kids!
Or, just let me do my thing. Benefit from the distilled products of my labor, and maybe support my efforts in making this free for all families raising compassionate & generous kids.
Whichever is easiest for you.
"I love these suggests and will definitely start incorporating these into our daily reading. Just a note… many people prefer person first language as they don’t like to be defined by their disabilities. It’s kind of a political thing, but your content is so good, I thought you might want to know. For example, 'people with disabilities' instead of 'disabled people.' Thank you for putting this information out there!
Commenter Dana, Abled Authority on how disabled people should refer to ourselves
This isn't a question so much as a condescending lack of awareness and on the complexity of human identity, but I get variations on this arrogance frequently enough that it belongs in the FAQ.
TL;DR: Stop assuming: A. We're a monolith, B. That you can speak for all disabled people, C. That I'm not disabled cause I can cobble together a book review. D. That you should be telling people how to identify themselves. E. That I suffer from being disabled, although I do suffering your ableist nonsense.
Thanks for bringing this up – I’m sure other new readers noticed my choice of identity-first language and it gives me an opportunity to clarify why.
If you have a disability, you may have great reasons to choose to identify person-first, and I would respect that. From what I’ve heard, many members of the Down Syndrome community prefer person-first language, and I use that language for them to uplift that choice. From members of the Blind & Deaf communities, I hear the opposite. Individuals are free to correct me and ask that I refer to them differently, and I would defer to that because I am not blind, nor deaf.
But I AM autistic, and suggesting that it’s a separate part of me, like ‘having’ cancer, is language formed by a system that denigrates disabled people.
Other than that – almost all the members of the disability community whom I have spoken with, (as well as several polls you can find run by organizations that follow a #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs principle of leadership) prefer identity-first language.
It’s ALWAYS non-disabled people (particularly non-disabled parents of disabled children who co-opt disabled identities and ironically use terms like ‘Autism Mom’), educators, and ‘disability experts’ who push back on my choice to identify alongside my disability without shame.
I do not ‘have Chinese heritage’ – I am Chinese. I do not ‘have womanhood,’ – I am a woman. I do not ‘have right-handedness,’ etc.
And you may notice, at this point, that all of these are things that are something we are allowed to live with, without shame. Yet for disability, particularly disability that is formed by the context of our environment, we continue on with this ableist language.
These are all things that are an integral part of who I am – identities that determine how I have grown up, formed opinions, and navigated the world.
I AM autistic. I AM disabled. I will not separate that from who I am because it’s not a disease that I need to separate from my identity, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Sometimes I invite folks with lived experience in the topics we discuss, who are doing kickass work toward our shared mission, to write a guest post here.
I'm not in love with the way many organizations expect free labor from targeted people. So I do this rarely, and only when I can scrape together a way to compensate them. If we can ever make RL generate enough that I can pay myself a living wage, I'd LOVE to open it up to pay other contributors for their labor.