The importance of adopted characters in children’s books

Published on: 22 February 2024

At BookTrust, we know the value of children seeing characters like them in books, and of seeing different families too. We asked author Liz Kleinrock to talk about the importance of including adopted characters in children's books.

December 15 is the anniversary of my arrival. Most kids and their families have photos of the day they were born, their cute smushy infant face wrapped in a blanket cradled in the arms of their parents from the delivery bed. I don’t have any of those photos.

Just like in the opening pages of Eyes that Weave the World’s Wonders, I grew up as a Korean transracial adoptee in a family where I looked different than everyone else (if you haven’t heard this term before, “transracial adoptee” means that I’m of one race and was adopted into a family of a different race.) What we lacked in matching, we made up for in love.  

Multiple things can be true at the same time. I loved (and still love) my family. They love me, have always supported me, and will be traveling to Korea with me for the first time this summer.

And being an adoptee has always been hard. There are questions I’ve held onto since childhood, and a sense of loss and grief that have followed me since I can remember.

The importance of authentic representation

When I searched for books about adoptees as a child and now as an educator, I always came up short. I saw that the limited stories available often fit into a few themes: stories about adoption that weren’t written by adoptees, stories that were well-intentioned but often dehumanised adoptees, and stories about adopting pets (to this day, when I talk about my adoptee identity with children, I can guarantee that some kid is going to compare my experience to their own adopting a dog or cat.) Nothing felt even remotely close to reflecting me, my family, or my journey. 

When you’re growing up, figuring out who you are is hard. Then add in not knowing who your biological parents are, having a severed connection to your birth culture and history, never seeing people like you represented in books or movies, few resources to talk about it, and often lacking the language to even ask questions. Being an adoptee can be tough!

All children deserve to see a family that might look like theirs in books. And all children deserve to read about different kinds of families.

The long-term benefits of reading for pleasure are well-known, and children are more likely to pick up books if they feel included in the array of characters on offer.  

This is exactly why I’m so grateful to have worked on this book with Joanna Ho and Dung Ho and share my family’s story with the world.   

Eyes That Weave the Worlds Wonders by Joanna Ho, with Liz Kleinrock, illustrated by Dung Ho, is out now. 

Topics: Adoption, Features

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