Finding Family Diversity on the Bookshelf

Finding Family Diversity on the Bookshelf

When UCF librarian Kristine Shrauger first looked for books that reflected her interracial family – she is white and her adopted daughter is from Ethiopia – she found the shelves were sparse.

She also discovered that other parents of diverse families thought the same thing, whether their families were interracial, both parents were the same gender, the parents were of different cultures, grandparents were raising their grandchildren, or one of many other nontraditional family relationships.

One of those other parents was library co-worker Yolanda Hood, a single mother of a bi-cultural child.

“Children and teens want to see themselves and need to see themselves represented in literature and media,” said Hood. “But so do parents and kids who aren’t a part of a diverse family. We are a part of a global society. Seeing the diversity of that society, including in family constructions, is important for everyone.”

As a result, a quest began to create a bibliography/database of books about families who live diversity every day.

“As a society, boundaries of family formation are changing,” the librarians wrote in a grant application. “Families are being formed in a variety of manners that were once thought of as impossible or as taboo. As children grow up, they begin to have questions about their families, their parents, how they were born, how the world sees them and how the world will interact with them.”

Shrauger, Hood, lecturer Anne Bubriski-McKenzie in Women’s and Gender Studies, and Professor Liz Grauerholz in Sociology received a grant two years ago from the American Library Association. The research started with two subject matters: interracial/transracial families and LGBTQ+ families. A second grant from the association to Shrauger and Hood was awarded last year and expanded the work to look at other types of non-traditional families and included the topics of racism, bias and skin color. The ALA grants totaled $9,000.

The UCF Learning Institute for Elders and in-house UCF library grants added another $3,300 to the project to research books on grandparents and other types of kinship care.

Books on the resource list also include diverse families where there is a single parent, there are adopted or foster children, and one or both parents are serving in the military or are incarcerated.

“We have identified books that reflect these dynamic families,” Shrauger said. “It is a source for which families can go to identify books that reflect their family situation.”

The new book database recently was published on UCF’s STARS archive, and Shrauger, head of UCF’s Interlibrary Loan Department, and Hood, head of the university’s Curriculum Materials Center, are being asked to share their findings locally and internationally. They spoke last week at the National Foster Care Conference in Daytona Beach, and are scheduled to present at the International Research Society for Children’s Literature in Toronto in July.

The books are for families with children of all ages, from toddlers’ board books to teen novels, with titles such as:

  • A Tale of Two Mommies, which is about a young boy raised by two women.
  • Who Do I Look Like?, about the daughter of an interracial couple who finds that she looks a little like everyone in her family, but mostly like herself.
  • Elliot, about foster care and adoption.
  • Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, about a high school student who always identified as a boy, but was born with a girl’s body.

There are about 450 titles in the database, and nearly another 600 will be loaded by the fall semester, the librarians said.

The librarians hope the resource becomes used by teachers, librarians, counselors, adoption agencies, children/young adults, parents and grandparents to empower their children with materials that reflect their families.

“I think this is a way for parents to find books because it makes it easier for parents to have a discussion with their child, whose classmate or friend may come from a diverse family,” Shrauger said. “Also, it will help older kids and teens who are in these diverse families and want to see themselves represented in the books that they are reading.”