[Image: A bland banner that says “Raising Luminaries Resource Roundup January”]
This January we’re exploring tenacious resilience with our kids
Oh hey. I uhhh…failed.
I was gonna cram all the things into twelve monthly resource roundup posts last year. But it turns out that’s too many things? And now I’m a little behind.
BUT it’s kind of perfect. Because this month’s theme is about tenacity, endurance and resilience. Which we can’t really practice until we stumble, fall, and fail. I’m not sure if irony is quite the thing I’m feeling here, so much as complexity. Because no matter how tenacious and hard-working we are, sometimes we just don’t have what it takes to stay afloat.
Sometimes we’ve got grit up the wazoo, but just don’t have enough power, enough resources, enough time to keep fighting. Sometimes the car breaks down, the trains stop, the library closes earlier you thought, the kid gets sent home barfing, and everyone needs last-minute help in the same 48 hours.
Doesn’t matter how talented, resilient and hard-working we are, at some point things are beyond our control. SO, with that, let’s get started with this grand new year and all the possibilities it brings. Along with the intent to be tenacious and work hard and stay flexible – that’s good stuff.
But also, don’t beat yourself up if hard work alone isn’t enough to claw your way through injustice, glass ceilings, and stacked odds.
This is a long toolkit, so here are some quick-jump links to make things easier:
- Significant dates & events
- Monthly themes
- Calls to action
- Good Finds
- Join Us
Need help explaining big ideas?
Check out our Luminary Wordbank, where we’ve got simple kid-friendly definitions for big concepts.
Posts may contain affiliate links, which allow me to earn a commission at no extra cost to you. If you’re into supporting libraries (please do!) more than consumerism, you can also support BFL on Patreon. Check out the full affiliate disclosure along with my statement of accountability on how I try to support my family without exploiting our community.
Significant Dates & Events in January
Here are the themes and events we’ve discuss with the Earthquakes, along with simple, practical guides and resources to keep pushing for change.
None of us can do it all – so pick one topic to introduce or revisit each month (or week, if you’re ambitious) and take one action to start a family discussion.
Kicking off the New Year
Who do we want to be this year? How do we want to grow over the next 4 seasons? We use these books to discuss identity, starting new, and leading with integrity.
Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Day, Jr. Day
3rd Monday of January
Shrugging off all the whitewashing and consumerism slowly encroaching upon this day – make sure your kids know the historical context of the civil rights movement, and why it’s important to support our leaders and recognize their humanity.
For the purposes of the discussion below, these are most effectively read in order from the top down.
- I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. (ages 3.5-8)
Recommended for the purpose of showing how media whitewashes and cherry-picks the parts of MLK acceptable to white moderates, but it’s also a good introductory book about racism. This was the first book we used to discuss racism with our eldest when he was three.)
- My Daddy (ages 4-8)
An autobiographical account from King’s son, on his role as a father. If you can only read one book about MLK this month, make it this one.
- The Youngest Marcher (ages 5-12)
- What does it mean to be courageous?
(Taking action to help others, even when though we’re still afraid.)
- Was MLK born courageous, or did he grow to be courageous through practice?
- Whose responsibility is it to act with courage even though we’re scared? Leaders? Or everybody?
- What do we know about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., beyond his role as a civil rights leader?
- What is exceptionalism? What does it mean to place someone on a pedestal?
- When we reduce people to their role as ‘heroes,’ what unspoken message does this send kids who don’t see themselves as heroes? What responsibilities are we trying to avoid?
- Why is it important we remember and learn about leaders as regular people?
- Did MLK work alone? Who else worked to end segregation?
- What is nonviolent resistance?
Resources to dig deeper:
- Segregation & Desegregation history for kids
- A kid’s compilation of non-violent resistance
- The best (and also some problematic) books about Martin Luther King
- Anti-Racism For Kids 101: Starting to talk about race
- Anti-Racism for Kids 102: Why not all racial discrimination is ‘racism’
- Anti-Racism for Kids 103: How White Supremacy Perpetuates Myths of Racial Purity
Coldest Days of the year
In Boston, that’s roughly January 21st-25th. The Laba Festival falls in January or December.
Our house is crumbling, the heat is broken for a month while we wait for a broken part of our furnace to be replaced, and Boston gets kind of cold around this time of year.
Taking night shifts with my partner so I can work full time, continue advocacy work, and home-school and care for the kids, I only get about 3 hours of daylight these days. So I’m also relying heavily on what our family learns from these books to handle my seasonal anxiety and depression, endure the terrifying weather, and work to stay resilient.
- Overcoming False Scarcity & Xenophobia with ‘Shelter’
- Our favorite winter stories
- Cozy Kid’s Books To Warm Up Your Winter
- Seasonal Rhythms, Patience & Listening
- Radical Interdependence
Holocaust Remembrance Day
Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of survivors from the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945.
Given the upsurge in Holocaust deniers and loud, media-seeking attention of anti-semites and nazis, we can’t let this horror fade into a dusty part of history.
- Oskar and the Eight Blessings (ages 4.5+)
- The Cat Who Lived with Anne Frank (ages 4-8)
- Hidden (ages 6+)
Fred Korematsu Day
The year I was born, two white dudes beat Kevin Chin (a Chinese man) to death, because they mistook him for a Japanese man who was gonna steal their jobs. Anti-Asian racism and xenophobia continues to this day. Both in the smaller, subtle ways that I’ve learned to shrug off growing up, and the systemic discrimination in our media and corporate practices. Not even getting into the horrifying violence we’ve seen against Asian Americans through this pandemic.
For many of you who aren’t Asian, it’s been easy to shrug off the generational trauma and modern fear that still haunts Japanese Americans from being imprisoned for being Japanese American in their own home country, even as we continue to target and torture immigrants in the US.
And as always – it’d be super cool if we could balance out every book about us as the quiet victim/nerd/mystical Asian, with stories showing us as agents of our own story, beyond our role as the other. So pick up a couple more books of our heroism & history this month, too.
- Delicious Kids Books That Dismantle Anti-Asian Racism
- Asian & Pacific Islander history
- Quick List: Kids Books on Japanese American Internment
- Why We Keep Repeating The Past – Kids Books on Japanese Internment
Too busy to keep up with my book lists? I hand-pick my favorite books for LFBC so they can deliver them straight to your door each month, along with guided activities and discussion questions.
Monthly Themes for January
Deeper discussions to return throughout the month.
Let’s Learn About Tenacious Resilience
I’m gonna take a second to boast – the Earthquakes are SO good at making mistakes. It’s kind of their thing.
There are a few types of ‘mistake’ books I love – they can go in a few different directions. All of them are awesome for fostering resilience and tenacity.
- Daring Greatly & Failing Spectacularly: Kids stories about mistakes and resilience
- How To Talk About Hard Topics With Kids – Building Courage & Resilience with Stories
- A terrible podcast episode on tenacity: Show up. Awkwardly. Show up nonetheless
What does ageism against older adults look like?
Take a quiz:
- Kids meet a 101 year old
- If your kids are curious about what is a code/decoder, learn about the Navajo Code Talkers in the story Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code (it’s a dry story, but adequate), and watch an interview with Chester Nez at 94.
- What assumptions did we make about older adults before we took the ageism quiz?
- What is ageism?
- Keep an eye out for advertisements that suggest signs of aging are shameful or best hidden. As a family, discuss how these ads normalize ageism.
For example, the Earthquakes bring our attention to advertisements for wrinkle cream and hair dye.
Resources to dig deeper:
- #OwnVoices Stories by Older Adults
- Why Young Activists Depend on the Fight For Elder Rights
- Problematic Savior Tropes Stigmatizing Older Adults in Kidlit
- Older Lives Are Worth Living: Fighting Ageism & Deathmisia In Children’s Books
- Anti-Ageism Kids Books About Older Adults
- Anti-ageism kids books featuring inter-generational friendships
Let’s Learn about Body Diversity, Acceptance & Positivity
For body shape, physical disability, skin, and gender-presentation:
- Bare Naked Body Book includes naked bodies, intersex, trans, disabled, with skin differences, and so on. This is the only book other than Sex is a Funny Word where genitalia are shown, which of course makes it a favorite for the target age group of this book, when kids are curious about parts people keep covered in public.
(transparency! Annick Press sent me a free review copy because I could not wait to get my hands on it!!!!!)
- Bodies Are Cool includes oodles of under-represented body shapes, sizes, and with skin and physical differences. This is by far the most inclusive for disability, age, limb differences, trans and gender non-conforming folks
- They, She, He, Me: Easy as ABC from our friends at Reflection Press, battling cissexism and ableism one adorable character at a time.
- We Are Little Feminists: Hair (ages 0-5) – I helped with this one! Featuring real people, read bodies, real hair, and a dyslexic-friendly font.
- Laxmi’s Mooch: R2’s favorite story-based book on body hair.
- Kamal’s Kes: My friend Navjot from Saffron Press sent me a free copy of this lovely book! Many Sikh people do not cut their hair (including body hair) as a part of observing their faith, so this is a particularly poignant discussion on body acceptance. One more reason shouldn’t have to adjust to a commodified social norm to feel good in our own bodies.
- Raised to be squeamish about body talk? To get started, here are BASIC Anatomy & Body Awareness Books.
- Next up, start discussing the diversity of bodies and how all bodies are good with Radically Body-Positive Kids Books.
- Now it’s time to destigmatize body size with adipositivity and books about fat liberation.
- The People You May See: Talking openly and without shame about noticing physical differences in people
- Here’s an ever-expanding list of books that explicitly explain to kids that all bodies are good bodies to get you started.
- Name the fact that popular media in our society discriminates against people with larger bodies. Discuss the myth that fat bodies are inherently less good or healthy or that thinness means desirability or health. Most importantly – openly discuss with kids how another person’s size, eating habits, or exercise is not a signifier of their value as a human being.
- Talk openly with kids about visible differences. Create a family policy so kids know they are allowed to ask about physical differences, but how to do it in a way that doesn’t make folks uncomfortable or feel like sideshow freaks. This includes folks of different races, racially ambiguous folks, and folks using disability-assistive devices.
Each individual has different preferences and feels comfortable with different levels of frankness. Speaking for myselg – a visibly multiracial person and as a person who often wears earmuffs in public to deal with an otherwise invisible disability:
- Don’t stare.
- Or if you must stare – please don’t do it while frowning. It’s scary and I get nervous about getting yelled at or you know, attacked.
- Not conspicuously avoiding eye contact or pretending we don’t exist.
- Smiling and saying ‘hello.’ Like you’re talking to a fellow human. Because you are!
- Agreeing ahead of time with kids to save questions for when you’re alone together.
- When a kid points something out, not hushing or implying shame, just saying cheerfully “Yeah, they have a really cool wheelchair!” or “Those are some sweet earmuffs! Smart for a noisy place like this!” or “Oh a new neighbor*, let’s say hello.” or “We can learn more about this when we get home.”
*Neighbor – or any word that suggests that this person is one of us – a member of our community.
- If kids slip up and comment on someone’s appearance- actively apologizing to the person you’ve made uncomfortable and letting them know you’ve got some conversations to have with your kids. “Sorry about that, we’ve been reading about skin color and my kid got excited because we live in a bit of a bubble. I understand if it made you uncomfortable or feel singled out, no [neighbor / fellow shopper / community member, etc.] should have to deal with being spotlit like this. I’ll be discussing how to be a better community member with the the kids when we get home.”
- The point is to de-center yourself and remember that folks who look ‘different’ have to navigate daily life like this, so treat us like humans who have just as much right to take up space in public and see this place as as much our space as you do.
- Ask kids to keep an eye out and to name body-shaming, fat-shaming, wrinkle-shaming, etc. advertisements. It’s a game! The Earthquakes love this.
- Keep up with the reading all year round. For those identities where you hold privilege, make sure at least 50% of your books normalize and validate stories of people who do not look like you.
Let’s Rally through the Winter Season with Trickster & Animal Stories
Find Trickster Stories that connect to your family’s culture, or stories told with permission from your local Indigenous nations.
Resources to dig deeper into this topic:
- Animal Stories
- Winter Favorites
- A rundown of our favorite Sun Wukong stories for kids
- On animal personhood & rights: Stories About Animal Rights & Anti-Speciesism
You are doing a good job!
If these resources give you more quality time with your kids (and less time searching for the perfect resource), show your appreciation by joining the patreon community, or make a one-time contribution on Venmo @Raising-Luminaries.
January Family Actions
Brainstorm & Collaborate
Join me for our Monthly Virtual Community Hangouts, stop in for chat!
January 2021’s date is TBD
Learn the third ‘D’ of Bystander Intervention for Kids: DOCUMENT
Courtesy of our friends at Hollaback, the AAJC & Woori Show.
Explore Kindness As An Action: SHARE
Give something away!
There’s much debate in the RevHum household about what it means for each of us to
give away 3 things. So I suppose it’s up to interpretation but today’s prompt is to do just that: ask everyone in your household to choose 3 things to give away.
Originally, I was thinking about going through our stuff and making a donation box, then it seemed to make more sense to find some things we have and don’t need that we know someone specific could use.
Next, Cade (9) suggested giving away drawings (Yes!) and also asked if giving someone a message/email counts. (No.) Cyrus (6) insists he will not be giving anything away under any circumstances…and so, we discuss: snacks? recipes? books? What can he share?
Talk about it with your kids and decide- what are your three things and who will you give them to?
Shared with permission in cahoots with Revolutionary Humans!
Support Your Local Food Bank
If you’re not sure how to get started, match the 15 bucks I donate each month to the Greater Boston Food Bank, which distributes resources to families and food banks in cities and towns across Eastern Massachusetts.
I’ve reinvested over 12% of our 2021 Patreon pledges to activists and organizations such as the Greater Boston Food Bank and Rosie’s Place, providing meals and supplies for families facing food insecurity.
Good Finds for January
R2’s Favorite (Age 7): Something’s Wrong!
- Books That Legit Made My Kids Laugh
- Kids stories of supportive friendship
- Books curated by kind & courageous 7-year-olds
Q’s Favorite (Age 9): The Deep Dark Blue
“I had a hard time following it and I’m not completely sure what’s going on – but this is a really good book. You should read it” – Q
Smith got a little too caught up in world-building to flesh out the characters and story. The dialogue story isn’t super-accessible for the recommended age range of 8-12 (I’d adjust for closer to 10+).
But there is potential for this to develop into a fantastic series of graphic novels following a set pair of siblings (one a cis boy, the other a trans girl) wrestling with expectations and roles in exploring spirituality, politics, and a rebellious insurgency.
At 9, Q the dialogue went over his head, but he appreciated the underlying story of two siblings reconciling with their gender identities and how they feel called to present themselves.
If you liked this story, check out
- Stories of Transgender Representation & Resilience for Kids
- Stories curated by a kyriarchy-smashing 9-year-old
My Favorite (Age 39): Bad Sister
This auto-biographical graphic novel by neurodivergent author Charise Mericle Harper explores the social conflict – and internalized shame – that come with undiagnosed communication and sensory disabilities.
While Mericle Harper only explicitly labels her neurodivergence as prosopagnosia (a difficulty recognizing faces that I also share), the conflicts in her story were driven by social and communicative misunderstandings commonly related to neurodivergence.
Challenges with pragmatic language, sensitivity to sound, ‘black and white’ thinking (ie: the Bad Sister label for making innocent mistakes), and annoyed, baffled adults who couldn’t understand why she could do some things well, while facing delays and social challenges compared to her younger sibling.
As an person who also grew up with these challenges raised as an undiagnosed Autistic girl – with all the extra social expectations that come with that – the story felt validating and compassionate. Both me and the Autistic kiddo combed the book back to front searching for a reference to Autism or another neurodivergence. Even the allistic kid agreed that the character in this story coded as Autistic.
Only after reading Bad Sister and checking her author history for more did I realize that Mericle Harper also penned Go! Go! Go! Stop! (among at least 50 more books. +1 neurodivergent point, she’s *prolific*) which my Autistic preschooler LOVED HARD through the two years his hyperfocus revolved around yellow construction trucks.
If you liked this story, check out
- Non-Shamey Guides for Autistic Kiddos
- Validating Sibling Conflict Stories with a Healthy Resolution
- Graphic Novels for Elementary-Aged Kids.
One more good thing…
My partner took the Earthquakes sledding, and came back with this report on their progress:
[Video description: R2, the smaller kid, trying to pull his much larger brother Q, in a sled through thick snow. Q half-heartedly paddles his arms to help, but R2 keeps jerking the sled rope only to meet resistance, flopping over, struggling to get back up, and repeating the same tactic, to no avail.]
Stay Curious, Stand Brave & Be Here Now
I appreciate the heck out of you, being here, doing the work you’re doing in the world, igniting that next generation of luminaries.
I like you and want you to be okay. Take a moment to feel loved. Right now. DO IT. YOU ARE ADORED.
Join the Raising Luminaries Community
If my work makes it easier for you to raise kind & courageous kiddos, you can keep these resources free for everybody by joining the Patreon community, donate via venmo @Raising-Luminaries, and shop the Raising Luminaries Store.