~Desmond Tutu ~
Today is our daughter's seventh birthday. We happen to be an adoptive family. This summer, two articles found me and have been periodically sneaking up, grabbing my attention, and reminding me about our own quest to find meaningful stories to share with our daughter. So today seemed like a logical day to post my thoughts.
Children – biological or adoptive – have an unending curiosity about who they are, how they fit in, and where they come from. It is a universal phenomenon. Kids ask their parents to tell them about when they were born, and what they were like “back then” over and over (and over) again. As time goes on, the stories become deeper and more details are shared. But the purpose is the same: tell me how I’m connected to you.
As parents, we hope that among the dinosaurs and ballerinas we can find stories our kids can connect with as people. Stories that reflect who they are or become part of them. Stories about being a family. Jamie Lee Curtis’ adoption book Tell Me Again about the Night I was Born can be just as meaningful to the child of a biological family, because it captures a child’s need to learn about themselves. Within the broader collection of children’s literature, there are wonderful stories about families. Many of them that could be “crossovers” for adoptive families, because they celebrate love, togetherness, and being a family.
Here in the new millennium, odds are pretty good that you are part of an adoptive family or know an adoptive family. According to the 2000 US Census, more than 1.6 million children under the age of 18 live with their adoptive parents, and more than 100,000 children are adopted each year. Thanks to international adoptions, the fabric of our society has become even richer, with families celebrating the heritage and cultures their children bring with them. According to the US State Department, between 1992 and 1999, the number of children adopted from abroad more than doubled from 6,720 to 16,396.
Where the bonds of a family may be universal, the paths to that connection are diverse. When it comes to finding children’s books with an adoption journey you want to find one that celebrates – or very closely resembles – your individual journey. That isn’t easy. When we became an adoptive family almost 7 years ago, I started looking for children’s books in our local library. At the time, we lived in Fairfax County, which is a huge system and has a wonderfully diverse collection. Their holdings tend to reflect the community their branches serve. Except when it comes to children’s books on adoption.
It was easy to find books on Amazon, but I had to rely on the blurb to see if this was a story that matched our family’s journey. At the time, very few of the books had professional reviews or even customer feedback, so the publisher’s “pitch” was all I had to work with. What I quickly discovered was that I needed a limitless budget to “test drive” some of these books.
Despite the growing numbers of adoptive families – one in every ten Americans is an adoptee – it isn’t easy to find a story you can borrow to share, either as a family or in a classroom. Bear with me while I explain how I reached this conclusion. First, I collected some of the more popular children’s books from Best Adoption Books for Children (2008), a report by Tapestry Books, an online adoption bookseller. I found stories to represent various types of adoption: international and domestic; single and two-parent families; infant and older child; foster care and other relative. Then I went to Worldcat.org to see where I could find them in US libraries. In WorldCat, you can’t filter the holdings by library type, so a return will always include public, school, and university libraries. According to an ALA Library Fact Sheet, there are an estimated 112,634 of these three types of libraries in the United States. Here’s what I found.
1,711 US libraries have at least one of the 12 editions of Tell Me Again about the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis.(1.5% of libraries)
1,360 US libraries have A Mother for Chocoby Keiko Kasza. There are 14 editions of this story about a little bird who searches for a loving parent. (1.2% of libraries)
You can find I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose Lewis, in 1,256 US libraries. There are seven editions of this story of the adoption of an infant Chinese girl to a single (1.1% of libraries)
987 libraries include Little Lost Bat by Sandra Markle in their holdings. This is the story of a newborn bat that loses its mother. (.88% of libraries)
There are 708 libraries that have at least one of two editions of Happy Adoption Day by John McCutcheon. (.63% of libraries)
591 US libraries have a copy of Beginnings: How Families Come to Be by Virginia Kroll, a collection of short stories, each with a different adoption journey. (.52% of libraries)
579 US libraries have Over the Moon an Adoption Tale by Karen Katz in their holdings. There are three editions of this the story about an adoption from a “faraway place.”
383 US libraries include Papa Piccolo by Carol Talley in their holdings. Piccolo, a male cat, becomes a father to two young kittens. This is a single dad story that has value as a crossover for adoption, too.
295 US libraries have All About Adoption: How Families are Made by Marc A Nemiroff and Jane Annunziata. This is a nonfiction title that describes the adoption process, and is applicable for both domestic and international adoptions.
I was really surprised at the results. The population data tells us that 10 percent of our population is an adoptee, but we can't find books in our communities. Sharing a book with a child is as much about connecting and creating memories as it is learning to read. I created an adoption book bag because families shouldn’t have to buy books to share their adoption story.
Like us, libraries don’t have limitless budgets. They have to make careful choices for the broadest possible audience. Please visit your local library. If you know a great book about adoption, tell your librarian. S/He can do the research and consider it the next time the library orders books. You might also ask if they can accept a donation of a children’s adoption book (or the money to cover the cost) in honor of National Adoption Month.
Happy Birthday pumpkin!