[Image: A bland banner that says “Raising Luminaries Resource Roundup June 2021”]
This June we’re focusing on helping kids develop a sense of self
Clear self-identity. Compassionate self-acceptance. Unconditional self-worth.
Last month’s activities coincided with recovering from a long, nasty cold followed by a tiny 9th(!!!) birthday celebration. It’s official – my oldest is by no definition ‘Little.’ He’s put in a formal request to change ‘Books for Littles‘ into ‘Books for Rascals‘ to be more inclusive. I’m open to it.
So we tossed all our well-laid plans and focused on rest, recovery, birthday cake, and not beating ourselves up for swerving from the home school itinerary. Instead, we focused on just being in the same room without an agenda. Resisting that false urgency to go-go-go and produce and consume so we can ‘keep up.’
(Who are we keeping up with? our friends? that nebulous ‘marketplace’ the NPR folks are always on about?)
We had on-the-fly pocket discussions on disability justice, family constellations, anti-vaxxers. In those moments when I had the energy to pull the kids away from video games while sorting the laundry. (Which was like 15 minutes a week, don’t get the wrong idea on my abilities.)
We dreamed and fantasized about what life will be like when we can enter buildings beyond home, when we can travel beyond our block, when we can see family and friends outside without the intricate ballet of social distancing and slipping masks.
Which is all a very romantic way of saying we spent most of our time snacking and washing dishes while trying to get a word in as the kids as they monologued about unicorns and dragons.
As we barrel into our second year of Covid isolation, getting into summer in earnest, I’m just so tired of keeping everything together and playing a one-person band of parent + curriculum-developer + teacher + playmate + cleaner + cook + handyperson + gardener + personal shopper + event planner + social support + tailor + etc.
I want to wake up some mornings not to a tightly packed itinerary, but just the question ‘what feels possible today?
So I’m dreaming futures and wondering what we really need to learn before the kids enter an adulthood where most of today’s jobs will be automated. 20 years out, and everything I learned in school is done by computers now. I’m less concerned with teaching my kids how to code and compute integrals, and more concerned with teaching the Earthquakes how to be more humans in ways machines can’t.
Supporting our kids means helping them discover what it means to be human
As we rethinking our relationship with computers, animals, the planet, other humans, and all those permutations of cosmic dust, our kids’ abilities to survive and thrive will depend less on their ability survive as cogs in a machine. Which means supporting them in discovering healthier models of interdependence, community development, and keeping their shit together in an age of overwhelm and uncertainty.
This all starts with helping kids develop a strong sense of self-identity.
Who they are – what they are, and how this informs how we interface with the world and others.
We’ve visited this concept before – in our collection about discovering the many types of leadership, in exploring our own racial identities to clarify our best roles in anti-racism, in recognizing the privileges we hold and the invisible challenges left for targeted people to carry. We go into this in further depth in the smashing wealth inequality series – what it means to see past the constructs of good and bad, division and inclusion.
Some identities can change. Challenges can shift. This is a conversation we must revisit regularly. So let’s get dig into it again this month. Supporting our kids in exploring these questions:
- What identities do we hold?
- What stories does the media, folks in our community, and our society tell us about people like us?
- What responsibilities do these identities carry?
- What does it look like to accept ourselves despite the stories telling us that some folks are more worthy than others?
- What does it look like to accept others, even when we disagree?
- How do we accept and support others while maintaining our own boundaries and respecting the boundaries of others?
So this month instead of setting a lesson plan itinerary, we’re just going to bring out the books I’ve found most helpful in starting these discussions and exploring ways to dig in deeper.
You are doing a good job!
Thanks to our awesome patreon members, I can raise my kids while getting into good trouble with you, while investing back into the community. You’ve been carrying so much, and taking on even more this year. THANK YOU.
Join us if you benefit from this work, or make a one-time contribution on Venmo @Raising-Luminaries.
Raising Luminaries & Books for Littles are free and accessible for readers who can’t afford a paywall. You can join our Patreon community for updates and assorted shenanigans. We’re a contribute-what-you can community, so I buffer my expenses with affiliate links. Posts may contain affiliate links, which allow me to earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Check out the full affiliate disclosure along with my statement of accountability.
Parenting is Praxis: June Edition
No one expects you to do it all – so pick one, or knit them together. Just keep pushing a tiny bit beyond your comfort zone and crack that noggin’ open just wide enough to let a little light shine in.
Need help explaining big ideas?
Check out our Luminary Wordbank, where we’ve got simple kid-friendly definitions for big words.
6/18 Is Autistic Pride Day
You don’t have to be Autistic to celebrate and support Autistics on pride day. And given the similarities in disability justice and solidarity between Autistics and the rest of the neurodivergent community, these activities work for all types of neurodiversity.
- Read at least one of these:
- Discuss Understanding the Spectrum: A Comic Strip Explanation
- As a mixed ability family of neurdivergents and neurotypicals, We found it helpful to read through this together, then create a spectrum map of our abilities and challenges for each family member. This helped us visualize where each of us needs support, and how we have abilities that can support others. Interdependence!
- If you loved this comic, check out Burgess’s new kid’s book Wiggles. Stomps, and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down – it’s not a bedtime storybook, more of a destigmatizing/validating guide. Highly recommend this in every pre-K through 3rd grade classroom.
- Share out the AWNN’s Autistic People of Color Fund. Donate if you can.
- Check in regularly (Monthly? Quarterly? Yearly? Any bit helps!) with the ASAN Action Center, specifically the Action Alerts for scripts and templates to support civil rights legislation for Autistic folks as it comes up. The actions take like 6 seconds and it’s very accessible for folks with executive functioning disabilities.
To go deeper with these discussions, these books will help:
Unlike every other American holiday, I never learned about Juneteenth in history class because I went to a 99.9% white school near Boston, and if there’s one thing white supremacy has a handle on, it’s our education system.
June 19th 1865 was the final end of slavery, when the very last enslaved citizens in Galveston, Texas learned they were free to go. Surprisingly (/sarcasm!), the kind of people who enslaved other humans kept the Emancipation Proclamation under wraps FOR TWO AND A HALF YEARS until a force of Union troops arrived to tell the last people they were finally free.
So our non-Black family observes Juneteenth as a time to acknowledge all the things that went wrong, and discuss how much (much, much) farther we have left to go dismantling anti-Black oppression.
Read one or more:
- Juneteenth for Mazie: Most engaging storybook on the subject to hook kids’ interest. Best for ages 4-8.
- Juneteenth: Includes more comprehensive facts and history in a poetic prose more engaging than I expected, best for kids 5+
- by Elder activist Opal Lee, the ‘Grandmother of Juneteenth‘ created Juneteenth: A Children’s Story. The audio on this video is terrible at the start, but notice the call and response read aloud technique she uses, which helps engage kids in more didactic non-fiction books without a story.
Non-Black Families: Parenting is Praxis
As a family whose holidays go unrecognized and unobserved by our government and schools, not getting days off is a tedious barrier and giant PITA when we’re trying to plan our family get togethers and celebrate our traditions. So in addition to asking our friends who observe this as a family event how we can support them, let’s focus on systemic change that frees this day up for those who celebrate.
If your local government doesn’t observe the holiday, reach out to your school committee, state, or city government to see who is advocating for a Juneteenth observation, so you can join forces, or become the squeaky wheel yourself.
Our state formally recognized the holiday as of last year. If yours does to, search for city/town pubic celebrations in your area. Our city hosts one, but public events are a sensory nightmare. So we usually stay home and discuss the holiday and its significance. Either way, if you’re a homebody, don’t let crowd-avoidance excuse topic-avoidance. Find a way to show your kids that this day is just as significant, as white-dominated events like the 4th of July or Christmas.
To go deeper with these discussions, these books will help:
- Kids books to dig into the history and significance of Junteenth
- Kids Books Centering Black Futures
- Creating An Anti-Racist Manifesto With Zetta Elliott
- Exploring Black Futures with ‘Freedom, We Sing’
- No White Saviors: Kids Books About Black Women in US History
6/20 is the Summer Solstice
As the weather heats up, this is the perfect time to talk about barriers to outdoor accessibility for targeted and marginalized people. This is scaffolding for the discussions we’ll be having about environmentalism and climate justice in July.
- This Beach is Loud! (Ages 3-7)
Recognizing barriers to participating in summer activities for kids with disabilities. This doesn’t even touch on access for folks with physical disabilities (sand and mobility devices, dang!) but will get kids started on thinking about how we can make summer outings more accessible for everybody.
- Freedom Summer (Ages 4+)
This is my favorite book to help kids understand the difference between individual and systemic racism. It’s also my favorite to show folks. The white-centering/saviorism is a little gross, but until we find something better, this is our most effective story in driving home the subtler impacts of anti-Black racism for younger kids.
- Cannonball (Ages 4-8)
Helping kids see there’s no one right way to play or participate. This is the You Do You of summer reading and it’s lovely.
- Ruth And The Green Book (Ages 5+)
This year, I’ve been talking more with Bellamy of Revolutionary Humans about how to move, travel, or even just gather with kids as mothers of color with disabilities. And we keep coming to the same resigned UGH that rins every possible location. Wouldn’t it be nice to just up and go somewhere without worrying what the racists might do to us once we get there? So this is for all the white folks who are like ‘I had a lovely time at [cheap destination covered in confederate flags], you should visit!’ While this book is taken from the historical use of a Green book, BIPOC still have to be cautious about where we end up, what we have to go through to get there, and how to navigate the emotional and mental labor who we might encounter, even in this year of our post-apocalyptic Brunch-is-Back-Soon 2020. If white folks are coming into Chinatown just to attack us, imagine how nerve wracking it can be to enter an unfamiliar and vetted space.
- Panda and Moon Bear (English), or Panda Roja y Oso Lunar (Spanish) (Ages 7+)
Healthy sibling relationship, nods to the challenges of growing up bilingual and code-switching, and goofy hijinks that end up inclusive, compassionate, and kind? BUY TEN COPIES, blow this up so Roselló is forced to write a sequel. These characters deserve their own TV series, I would watch the heck out of it.
- Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer (Ages 8+)
Navigating new friendships, judgement, cultural family and social conflict for third-culture kids & immigrant families, transformative justice, and an autistic coded socially abrasive character!!!! Also an Asian character whose family actually takes off her damn shoes in the house. (the bar is low for white makers, but this book hits well above and doesn’t tokenize our Asian protagonist.) This is the summer read for Rascals we all needed.
- This Beach is Loud! (Ages 3-7)
- Discuss as a family:
- Think of your favorite summer activities. What barriers might other kids face participating?
- How can we make these events more accessible for every kid?
If you’re looking for quick & easy summer reading lists, there you go:
- Summer reading lists by age
- Summer Favorites
- For adults: The Luminary Braintrust’s #GrownUpBookClub reading list.
6/21 is Father’s Day
- Read about so many types of dads, including validating stories for kids with and without dads. Including but not limited to:
- Dad by My Side: Involved, primary caretaker dads!
- The Better Tree Fort: Involved, collaborated dads!
- We Are Little Feminist Families: Trans gestational parent dads!
- My Maddy: Nonbinary and gender creative masculine-adjacent parents.
- Boats for Papa: Deceased dads with moms who support kids in maintaining memories and support them through grief.
- A Father Like That: Absent dads, and the co-parents who support kids in navigating abandonment and loss.
- Visiting Day: Incarcerated dads, who kids have to jump through hoops to visit.
- Knock Knock: For children whose fathers have been involuntarily separated from them – for instance from incarceration, death, deportation.
Have you seen the movie Onward? It’s utterly lovely. Healthy masculinity and dismantling assumptions on the 4.5-member nuclear family for the win!
This month we’ll be discussing the roles of men as caretakers and father-figures in raising kids, and the messages we’ve absorbed from books, media, and our own family habits on what responsibilities, pressures, and assumptions fall on men as caretakers.
- Support National Bail Out with donations, volunteering, and/or signal-boosting to reunite incarcerated parents with their families, support bail reform, and create resources to support families navigating pretrial detention.
To go deeper with these discussions, these books will help:
- Raising Tomorrow’s Fathers – Children’s Books With Feminist Dads
- Love is Love is Love – Validating Diverse Family Constellations in Kids Books
- Kids books celebrating healthy masculinity
- Boys who keep house: Raising Sons Who Value Care Work
- Kids books about family member incarceration
June is Pride Month, and 6/28 is the Anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots
- Discuss As June ramps up and the summer shopping season ramps up…
- Draw kids attention to rainbow-washing in ads and shopping aisles. Talk about which companies and organizations support LGBTQiA2S+ people year-round, and which stick rainbows on things once a year to sell more rubbish.
- Discuss the able/thin/whitewashing of LGBTQiA2S+ history and heroes. Notice which books and shows are okay with portraying the history of Pride, but only when focusing on white, thin, able-bodied, etc. heroes.
- Discuss LGBTQiA2S+ history before Stonewall. How has settler-colonialism narrowed our understanding of gender and sexuality? Is Pride something new, or is it something we’re reclaiming?
- Advocate (Adults)
- Sign up for free virtual training: Bystander Intervention to stop LGBTQ+ Harassment via Hollaback.
Books and articles to help dig deeper:
- LGBTQiA2S+ History for Kids
- Stories of Transgender Representation & Resilience
- Dismantling Cissexism In Kidlit – Maker Spotlight with Maya & Matthew of Reflection Press
- Queer Rainbow Children’s Books By Indigenous, Black & Brown Authors
This month, let’s dig into …
Immigrant Heritage Month
For Immigrant Heritage Month, let’s revisit those discussion questions from above in relation to immigration.
What relationship and identities do we hold in relation to the land we call home right now?
For instance, families can be a mix of Indigenous, immigrants documented or undocumented, displanted people, settlers, visitors, transnationally adopted, diaspora, third-culture kids, nomadic, seasonal migrants, etc. We can be 1st generation or 2nd, etc. descendants.
Some groups even have ethnicity-specific labels, such as ABC or FOB (American-Born Chinese or Fresh-off-the Boat) which might be used as a derogatory label or worn with pride. The point is to unpack the language and give words to your kids to help them self-identify where they fit into the scheme of human migration so they can choose how they identify.
What stories does the media, folks in our community, and our society tell us about people like us?
Which groups hold the power to give or take away other groups’ rights? Who is seen as the ‘default,’ and who is ‘the other?’ Whose stories are taught in schools and celebrated? Whose ancestors, heritages, and traditions are taught as ‘our history’ (ex: American history in American schools), and which groups are relegated to World History or not spoken of at all?
What responsibilities do these identities carry?
Does our nationality allow us to skip past challenges other groups have to deal with? Which challenges do we face because of our nationality?
What does it look like to make a home here? To be accepted as a regular member (not a visitor) of the community?
What does it look like to welcome others to our neighborhood, even when we disagree?
How do we accept and support those who have been here longer than us, and those who are just arriving? What fears do we hold about how our home could change?
Books to help
Since we’re making this a personal exploration, the books you’re gonna want to read with your kids should be unique to your family. For example, our Chinese-Irish kiddos can find reflection of our experiences, and the immigrant stories of our ancestors in books like:
- Paper Son (4+) for Chinese American immigrants affected by the Chinese Exclusion Act.
- Small Beauties (4.5+) for Irish American immigrants/refugees forced here during the Great Hunger.
- Where Are You From? (4-8) for multiracial people treated as ‘the other’ in their own birthplace.
- And when they’re older, The Weight of Our Sky (12+) for families who experienced racial, and religion, and political conflict or tension between Chinese and Malays in post-colonial Malaysia.
If you’re unsure or unwilling to talk about your family’s nationality (your kids edification isn’t worth re-traumatizing family members!), skip past the family self-reflection, and discuss immigration rights as a general issue. Here are some stories and tools for that:
- Immigrants Belong Here: Books Helping Kids Advocate For Human Rights
- Immigrant Solidarity Family Action Toolkit
- How We Reinforce The Model Minority Myth with Polar Bear Island
Quick shortlist of some (but nowhere near all!) types of good and lovely families:
- My New Mom and Me (recent adoption, single mother, single child)
- My Maddy (nonbinary single parent, single child)
- Love, Z (polyam parents)
- The Phantom Unicorn (2-parent interracial polyma and/or lesbian moms with a bio dad)
- Swift Fox All Along (separated multi-ethnic family)
- Milo Imagines The World (older sibling as primary caretaker, incarcerated parent)
While we’re on the topic of LGBTQiA2S+ Pride Month, I find the kids asking more questions about families – what they look like, what shapes they take, and how they can change over time. This is a chance to make sure your representation on what a ‘Real’ family looks like isn’t relegated to just the families on your block. To make this easier, I’ve added some updates and expanded book collections to Love is Love is Love – Family Constellations in Kids Books.
And since it’s new, for more resources on solidarity and support for single parents through the pandemic, check out our new toolkit: Single Parenting in a Post-Apocalyptic Hellscape with Revolutionary Humans.
For families with high-risk, unvaccinated kiddos:
We’re starting to host some socially-distant masked backyard playdates. But many families are still wrestling with full or semi-isolation. Here are some books to help!
- Hilarious books that legit made the Earthquakes belly-laugh
- Kids Books For Pandemic Life
- Books To Reassure Kids During Coronavirus Isolation
- Stories Validating Big Feelings
- Our favorite books of 2021 so far.
Family Calls To Action: For Grownups!
1. Virtual Bystander Intervention Training to Stop LGBTQiA+ Harassment
“Hollaback! Is offering a free training to address LGBTQIA+ harassment. We’ll talk about how microaggressions and violence show up in the LGBTQ+ movement and what you can do to stop it. Sign up for the free training.“
2. Raising Luminaries Monthly Virtual Open Office Hours
Tuesday, June 22, 1-4:30pm EST, via Zoom. Click here to sign up for updates. Access links are posted monthly as patreon updates and sent to your inbox.
Members of our patreon community, join me to discuss insights and unpack challenges raising kyriarchy-smashing kids. We can discuss this month’s topics, our #GrownUpBookClub picks, accountability and transformative education, or the unique obstacles you’re facing in daily life with kiddos.
If you can’t make it for the virtual event, join the Luminary Brain Trust private Facebook group (Luminary+ tiers) to work at your own pace through our hosted thread conversations.
3. Grab a Little Feminist Book Club subscription for your favorite kiddo.
Overwhelmed? If you can’t make it to the library or just want one less thing to deal with, sign up for an age-based Little Feminist Book Club subscription. I help our friends at LFBC curate the most effective stories, shipped directly to you in a cute box each month.
One more good thing…
[Video description: Q walks R2 through an arsenal of behaviors they’ve designed to a release of trigger dopamine and oxytocin in adults to maximize the likelihood of receiving attention, treats, and compliance to requests. Methods include: pressing their faces together, nuzzling noses, making gurgling, and protecting each other.]
Stay Curious, Stand Brave & Own Your Experience
This month let’s talk with our kids about who we are and the roles we each play in collaborating as a world-changing collective. We’re all stronger with you in our community. You give me hope.
You can keep these resources free & accessible for all join the Raising Luminaries Patreon community. If you don’t need extra resources, but want to help me keep this free for the public – make a one-time contribution on Venmo @Raising-Luminaries.
(BUT DONATE TO A FOOD BANK FIRST because unlike many families, my kids ate lunch today)