Rhodes self-published the first two books in the My Kind of Family series (Understand How You Feel and Never Doubt That You Are Loved) and sells them on Amazon.com and her own website,
MyKindOfFamily.com. Four more titles are in the works: Include Everyone, Quitters Never Win, Use Your Brain and Education Is Important.
The series allows children and their caregivers to fill in names, select pronouns and color in the illustrations — choosing things like hair and skin colors — to reflect their families. The idea for the series, Rhodes says, came from her own life: She and her former partner tried several times to have a child of their own before deciding to adopt. Even though they are no longer a couple, they still co-parent their daughter, who is now almost 5.
Rhodes says the books were influenced by her experiences as a survivor of childhood abuse, and by the experiences of other families she met through the LGBT parents group Rainbow Roundup. In fact, she met the books’ illustrator, Tina L. Walker, through Rainbow Roundup.
“These books mirror my past and the things I have learned,” Rhodes says, noting that the first letters of the first words in each title in the series spell UNIQUE.
Licensed professional counselor intern Renee Baker said that is a fitting description of family today.
“It’s a unique book,” Baker says, referring to the first book in the series, the only one she has read so far.
“And it’s a great idea, giving a child a way to create a family book that matches their own family. Diverse families are more the norm than ‘normal’ families. Only about 25 percent of families these days are the white picket fence type we think of as the ‘traditional’ family. So these books are a really nice idea and a great way to let kids normalize their own families.”
The books let children “feel like their own family is validated,” Baker says. “Their family feels normal. And it gives parents a chance to talk to their children about diversity in a way that feels normal.”
The first two books in the series are available at Amazon.com for $11.99 and at MyKindOfFamily.com for $9.99. Available to nonprofit organizations at a discounted price for use in fundraising. Therapists working with children can also obtain copies from Rhodes through her website.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 25, 2014.