Infant/Child/Family Development Program Reading List

Nov. 22nd, 2012

Sample Reading List: Infant/Child/Family Development Program

  • (NEW) Beverley Cleary, Ramona and Her Mother & Ramona and Her Father. These two children’s chapter books are perennial favourites. Cleary does a good job of getting in the mindset of a child, and Ramona’s parents are imperfect but good, loving parents. Although the Ramona books are children’s books, Cleary touches on serious and realistic family issues such as unemployment, financial worries, and tension/arguments between the parents–these would all be good fodder for discussion.
  • Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. This novel is told from the point of view of Christopher, a young boy who is on the autism spectrum. His father is trying to cope with being a single parent of a child with autism; Christopher is trying to navigate a confusing, inconsistent world as an intelligent, curious boy with obsessions, compulsions, and phobias that make school difficult. This novel could bring out discussions of parenting a child with special needs/challenges; what it is like to be a person with challenges; dealing with co-parenting. It’s about a serious topic but has many moments of humour and is very non-preachy.
  • (NEW) Nick Hornby, About A Boy. The “boy” in the title of the novel could apply to both of the narrators: one is Marcus, a lonely twelve year old boy who is having trouble at home (dealing with his depressed but well-meaning mother), and at school (trying to avoid bullies). The other “boy” is Will, an independently wealthy bachelor in his 30s who decides–even though he doesn’t actually have any kids–to attend single parent groups as a way of meeting women. Will meets Marcus through one of the women he begins dating, and as a result of mild blackmail, becomes at first an annoyed and reluctant father figure, then a progressively involved and invested one. Although About A Boy is humorous in parts, it deals sensitively and seriously with several relevant parenting issues: how to help children deal with bullies; how to deal with depression as a parent; how to be a good role model.
  • (NEW) Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird. Although not unproblematic, TKAM is a fast, engaging read that offers Atticus Finch and Calpurnia the housekeeper as good parental role models.
  • David McKee, Not Now, Bernard. This is actually a children’s book that parents would probably find interesting. It’s about a child who is trying to get the attention of his parents but they are busy and keep telling him “Not now, Bernard.” Eventually Bernard finds a monster in the garden, tries to tell his parents about it (they still tell him “Not now, Bernard) and he gets eaten by the monster. This would be a good choice for a session where parents and children could all discuss the book together. It has the added bonus of being an in-session read since it is so short.
  • Drew Hayden Taylor, The Baby Blues. This is a good opportunity for participants to perform a dramatic reading–it’s about a group of Aboriginal Canadians who are searching for answers about their heritage and their purpose in life. This is a comedy (pretty broad in parts) that touches on serious issues–it should spark some discussion.
  • Miriam Toews, Summer of My Amazing Luck. This novel by acclaimed Canadian novelist Miriam Toews (A Complicated Kindness; Irma Voth) is a shortish, easy to read story about a young single teen mother (Lucy) who moves into low-income housing with her baby and is immediately befriended by a wacky, outgoing young woman (Lish). The two of them embark on a road trip to find the long-lost father of Lish’s twins. There’s lots to discuss in here: the way that Lucy is treated by social services workers; the relationships between the other (mostly single) moms in the housing complex; Lucy and Lish’s friendship; their parenting styles; Lucy’s relationship with her father and her late mother.

In putting together this list I considered an existing local program that has expressed some interest in starting a reading group. Two goals of this program are to “empower parents to the best of their ability to educate and nurture their children as well as themselves” and “encourage parents/guardians to be proactive and advocate for their children.” Thus, the books on this list explore issues related to child development, developmental differences, parent/child relationships, co-parent relationships, Aboriginal issues, single parenting, and the celebration of traditional knowledge.