Post submitted by Kimmie Fink, Welcoming Schools Consultant
March 21 marks National Single Parent Day, first recognized in 1984, honoring the sacrifices and hard work of single parents. Today, 11 million families are headed by single parents. Families are important to children and greatly inform their identity development, so it is crucial that schools reflect diverse family structures. Welcoming Schools has the tools to do just that.
Students need both “mirrors” and “windows,” especially when reading books. Seeing families that look like theirs helps students develop positive identity associations, and exposure to and accurate information about diverse families helps dispel stereotypes. Three Welcoming Schools recommended picture books that feature diverse families are Families (interviews and color photos showing the diversity of American families), The Family Book (a celebration of all kinds of families), and The Great Big Book of Families (a showcase of different aspects of family life).
Welcoming Schools’s lesson plan for The Great Big Book of Families is a particular favorite for educators looking to discuss different types of families in the classroom.
In the K-2 lesson “The Great Big Book of Families: Discussion Guide,” the teacher asks students to pay special attention to the kinds of families they see. Throughout the reading, students look at family structure, homes, jobs, and other facets of family life and identify similarities and differences to their own families. Afterwards, students discuss what makes a family and celebrate their own with a drawing.
For older students, “Family Quilt: A Community Art Project” is a creative lesson designed for grades 3-5. Creating a classroom quilt is an opportunity for students to connect with their own families, share their family experience, and appreciate the diversity of families in their classroom and the larger community. Each student will create a quilt square in which they illustrate something they like to do with their family, a place their family enjoys being together, or the family members themselves. Volunteers can make squares for family structures that may be missing.
Conversations about families at school should be both reassuring and empowering to all children. As single-parent families know very well, what makes a family is love.
HRC’s Welcoming Schools is the nation’s premier program dedicated to creating respectful and supportive elementary schools in embracing family diversity, creating LGBTQ-inclusive schools, preventing bias-based bullying, creating gender-expansive schools, and supporting transgender and non-binary students.