Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama series has been one of the favorites of the four and five year olds in my classroom for years now. The fun rhymes combined with relatable stories and illustrations of the characters faces that are great at conveying emotions seem to really draw the children into the books. However, there is another aspect of the books which gives them extra depth. Mama Llama is a single mom.
This fact is never explicitly stated in the books, but the character of “Daddy Llama” has yet to make an appearance. Furthermore, from the very first book, Llama Llama Red Pajama, we see Mama Llama busily having to accomplish a variety of tasks without any support. Even though I have read these books hundreds of times over the past few years, I have literally never had a student ask a question about where Llama Llama’s Dad might be and I have never brought it up.
I suspect that in most cases young children won’t pick up on the fact that Llama’s family may not be like the heterosexual families with two parents that are found in your average children’s book; but, that does not mean that there is no impact from Llama Llama being raised by a single mom. Books like the Llama Llama series that don’t prominently feature a nuclear family almost subversively normalize that family type and give young children someone they can possibly relate to. Anecdotally, I can tell you that as a child raised by a single mom, I was often drawn to books/movies/songs with that dynamic even when I was not completely conscious of it.
Thus, I would argue it is important that we include books with a variety of family dynamic in our classrooms where the deviations from the standard nuclear family is not central to the story but sits in the background of the book. (Books where the different family type are central to the story can also be helpful if done well, but I would put them in a separate genre ). Unfortunately, those books are few and far between. Anyone have any recommendations for books that feature family variations but where those variations are not central to the story