Reading to and with children has been proven to be widely beneficial throughout the years. Reading exercises the brain, improves concentration, develops imagination and empathy, and many books teach lessons while simultaneously keeping a child entertained. If you’re lost what your next bookstore trip should yield, here’s 5 books that your kids would greatly benefit from reading, all having to do with foster care and unique family dynamics.
For Younger Children
Murphy’s Three Homes follows Murphy the puppy and his transitions between three different homes and families. The book introduces Murphy, a “good luck dog,” whose mamma dog was unable to take care of him. After the owners decide it is best to find him a new home, he is moved to his first home where the owners are mad when he makes mistakes and doesn’t feed or care for him as they should. When Murphy is removed from his first home and brought to a second one he feels constant pressure to be better and is always afraid he’s not doing enough. When Murphy arrives at his third and final home, he thinks he’s a “bad luck dog” and is certain that this home won’t work out either so he runs away. The owners bring him back and he finally feels at home.
One of the most difficult realities for both parents and children is trying to comprehend the way in which the foster care system works. This book explains the system and how it works in ways that will make it a lot easier for your kids to understand what’s going on. Called a “straightforward look at the issues of foster care, the questions that children ask, and the feelings that they confront,” the book covers social workers, parents, lawyers, and judges in a way that can be understood by children of all ages.
This is a great children’s book for both foster kids and forever kids, so we recommend adding this one to your library. Stellaluna and her mother are fruit bats, and one night while hunting for food they’re attacked by an owl. Stellaluna is separated from her mom and is taken in by a family of birds. Stellaluna must now put aside her bat instincts to fit in with her new family. One day, when she gets separated from her bird brothers and sisters, Stellaluna is reunited with her bat family. This is the perfect book to read to your foster kids so they can hear a story similar to their own from the perspective of an adorable bat.
For Older Children
Far From the Tree is a YA (young adult) fiction novel telling the story of three teenage siblings who were separated from each other in the foster system. Through a series of events, they find each other. The author skillfully details the sense of loss, abandonment, and identity questions that the main characters of the story go through. While building relationships with each other once they are reunited, the teens have to navigate individually difficult home-lives. Far From the Tree is a shorter novel that packs a punch in a few chapters, and is a powerful image of the teen perspective on the difficulties and challenges of the system. “Benway adeptly leads readers through a tale of love, loss, and self-discovery. Expect to cry real tears at this one. “Well-written and accessible, this is a must-purchase for all YA collections.” —Erica Deb, Matawan Aberdeen Public Library, NJ
A List of Cages is another great young adult novel that helps start the conversation around deeper, more sensitive topics like abuse. Centered around a teen who’s a forever child and was previously a foster brother. In his senior year of high school, he helps the school psychologist who instructs him to mentor a freshman who turns out to be his ex-foster brother, Julian. Adam’s family took Julian in after his parents were killed in a car crash, but then his uncle stepped forward as his legal guardian, and Julian was taken away. Adam soon begins to suspect that things are not right at Julian’s new home. Many scenes of abuse will challenge readers with authentic detail; Julian suffers regular beatings and is, at one point, locked in a chest without food. “Roe, a social worker, has written a stunning novel about loss, friendship, and the power of family.”
While the journey through foster care and resource parenting can be a difficult one, reading is a great way to get through to your children and help them understand the ups and downs of the system and why they are in their current position. While a few of these books hold more entertainment value, some of them make awkward questions of conversations easier, and all of them offer a valuable lesson—not to mention the quality time you get to spend with your child reading to them.