- Interest Level: Ages 2-7
- Themes: Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Families, Traditions
- Comprehension Strategies: Making Connections, Character Analysis, Making Inferences
Last month, I took an inventory of my 2 year old’s books and found that they were seriously lacking in diverse characters. Most of our children’s books at home feature animals as characters rather than people, but in the books with people, most are white, male, and part of a family with a mom and a dad. I considered how this might already be teaching my son about what is normal and of value in our family, and decided we’re going to nip that in the bud right now. Especially given the fact that he is socially isolated due to the coronavirus outbreak, I think it is more important than ever to explicitly teach him about people that look different than he does, through picture books and stories that accurately represent different cultures.
I came across this book, Full, Full, Full of Love, by Trish Cooke, in a blog post about diverse picture books from Happily Ever Elephants, and ordered it along with some others from her list. It is a sweet story featuring a Black family, in which a little boy and his grandmother prepare and enjoy a Sunday dinner with family. After receiving the book and doing a quick read-through, I was amazed that it had flown under my radar for so long. My 2 year old loves the book as well, and there is so much that he can relate to (he also loves “helping” his grandmother cook in the kitchen, he likes to feed his grandparents’ fish, and he also is a big fan of many of the foods in the book, like macaroni and cheese).
Jay Jay spends a Sunday afternoon at his grandmother’s house, eagerly and impatiently awaiting the large dinner that she is preparing for their family. Just when he can’t wait any longer, his parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins arrive and they all sit down for their special family meal. After dinner, the cousins clean up, and Jay Jay gets to spend some quiet time snuggling with his grandmother before it’s time to go home.
This book would be perfect to include in a unit on realistic fiction. I would use it as a mentor text to help students see how their everyday lives can make for great stories, even if they think nothing exciting ever happens to them (I had so many students that struggled with the “nothing story-worthy happens in my life” complex). You can also read this book when teaching about traditions (Sunday night dinner at Grannie’s seems to be a tradition in Jay Jay’s family) and how traditions can exist on a large scale, as in religious or national celebrations, or on a small scale, like a weekly family dinner or yearly camping trip.
1. Looking at the cover and the title, what do you think this story is going to be about? Why?
2. How do you think Jay Jay feels about being at Grannie’s house? How do you think Grannie feels about having Jay Jay there? How can you tell?
3. Sunday night dinner at Grannie’s is a tradition in Jay Jay’s family. Is there anything that you and your family do that is a tradition (something you do every week/month/year)?
4. What are some ways that your family is similar to Jay Jay’s? What are some ways that they are different?