Finding my Family | Guest blog by Cathy Kiwanuka
Finding my Family is a guest blog series exploring how families are represented in children's books, whether that's due to set-up, ethnicity, neurodiversity, disability, LGBTQIA*, socio-economic status or any other facet of diversity.
Cathy is a Singapore-based freelance educational publisher, editor and English tutor.
Find Cathy on LinkedIn.
Who makes up your family?
My husband and I have two daughters, aged 1 and 3, and I'm also a step-mum to his 14 year old son. Though sadly, because of Covid and the fact we're based in Singapore, we've not been able to see him or any of the rest of our family in person for the last year.
Why is inclusion in children’s books important to you on a personal level?
My husband is Ugandan and our daughters are mixed-race. Growing up in Singapore they have a hugely diverse set of classmates from all over the world and it's important to me that they see themselves, their friends and their brother represented in the books we read them. I also want them to encounter and enjoy stories about people and families that are different to their own.
Can you recall any occasions when you’ve found representations of yourself/your family in children’s books?
My stepson bought Look Up! by Nathan Bryon for his sisters and I love that it is about a Black family and a sibling relationship with a big age gap. I also love Sarah Garland's books for showing the messiness of family life and having a chic grandmother who drives a red convertible, just like my Mum's! However, I've yet to encounter any young children's books that include a blended family authentically.
How did it feel to find these representations, not find any representation or to find inauthentic or negative representation?
I feel very fortunate to be bringing up my daughters at a time where more and more inclusive books are available and they are not surprised to find children that look like them. I am hopeful this will continue to be the case!
How could someone authentically represent you/your family in a children’s book? What nuance would make it authentic?
I would love to see more working mums in books, more mixed-race families, more families spread around the world, and more blended families with different set-ups.
If you or your family could be in any children’s book (as yourselves) what book would it be?
My daughter's adore The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr – it's a brilliant story but very much of its time with Mum at home and Daddy expecting his beer and tea when he gets back from work. I'd love to see an updated version - perhaps with the Tiger turning up for breakfast as both parents are rushing to get off to work, drop children at school, etc.
What is your favourite children’s book? Why?
My daughters and I have read Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox countless times. It was a gift when my eldest daughter was born and was definitely the first book she really engaged with and started talking about – she loves turning the pages in search of the green sheep and encountering all sorts of other sheep along the way. It features fantastic artwork and introduces the idea that you can be so many different and equally valid things in a wonderfully age-appropriate way.
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