EducationDaily Booklist: Inclusive Father’s Day stories for diverse families


In a recent article encouraging schools to plan more inclusive events and activities in the lead-up to Father’s Day, I suggested putting together a book list that celebrates modern-day diversity in family structures. In 2023, the default should be recognising that every family looks different and that special days like this can be made more difficult for students who don’t get to see themselves represented.

So, I put together an EducationDaily booklist. And when my editor suggested To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s powerful story of widower Atticus Finch single-handedly raising Scout and Jem in 1930s Alabama seemed like the perfect place to start.

To Kill A Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

To kill a mocking bird book cover
In To Kill A Mockingbird Scout looks back on her childhood in small-town Alabama, as her father Atticus Finch defends a Black man falsely accused of rape. As Scout and her brother Jem are caught up in the racial tensions intensified by their father’s moral stand, we get to witness a man raise his children with empathy and ethics that go on to shape their whole lives.

Nelle Harper Lee based this 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel on her own childhood. Finch was her mum’s maiden name and sister’s middle name, and her father Amasa Coleman Lee was an attorney who served in the state legislature in Alabama.

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My Strange Shrinking Parents

by Zeno Sworder

My strange shrinking parents book cover
My Strange Shrinking Parents takes readers on a journey as a boy’s parents travel from far-off lands to improve their son’s life. Zeno’s reflections on his own childhood and the experiences of his migrant parents is the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Picture Book of the Year 2023.

Zeno Sworder is a writer, artist and part-time pencil collector who lives in Melbourne with his young family. He’s studied Chinese literature and migration law, washed dishes, worked as a journalist, English language teacher, consular officer, advocate for refugees and immigrants, and jewellery designer.

Dear Son

by Thomas Mayo (Mayor)

Dear Son book cover
Dear Son is a collection of letters, prose and poetry, written by Thomas Mayor and 12 other First Nations men to their sons, fathers and nephews. They cover themes including masculinity, love, culture and racism.

Along with his own vivid and poignant prose and poetry, author and editor Thomas Mayor invites 12 contributors to write a letter to their son, father or nephew, bringing together a range of perspectives that offer a powerful celebration of First Nations manhood.

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First Nations contributors include Stan Grant, Troy Cassar-Daley, John Liddle, Charlie King, Joe Williams, Yessie Mosby, Joel Bayliss, Daniel James, Jack Latimore, Daniel Morrison, Tim Sculthorpe and Blak Douglas

The book’s artwork is by proud Kaurna/Ngarrindjeri/Narrunga/Italian Australian artist Tony Wilson, and Gamilaraay illustrator Tristan Schultz.

Thomas’ letter begins:
“Dear Son,
Do you remember, when you were about nine, you tried to take my hand as you always did, and I said you were too old to hold my hand in public?”

Thomas Mayo (Mayor) is a Torres Strait Islander man born on Larrakia country in Darwin. As an Islander growing up on the mainland, he learned to hunt traditional foods with his father. Thomas recently changed his name back to Mayo “after a priest changed it to Mayor in my dad’s generation”.

Hair Love

by Matthew A Cherry

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Hair Love book cover
Hair Love is a New York Times Bestseller that was adapted into an Oscar-winning animated short film. It tells the story of Zuri, her stunning but stubborn afro, and her dad’s promise to style it for a special occasion when her mum can’t be there. The book is illustrated by Vashti Harrison.

“Daddy tells me it is beautiful. That makes me proud. I love that my hair lets me be me.”

Matthew A. Cherry is a Chicago native and former NFL wide receiver turned filmmaker. He played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, and the Baltimore Ravens before retiring and moving to LA to pursue more creative endeavours.

The Family Hour in Australia

by Tai Snaith

The Family Hour book cover
The Family Hour in Australia is an exploration of a day in the life of 15 Australian animals. The journey begins with the Gouldian finch family eating breakfast, takes you through koalas still sleeping in the afternoon, and takes a peek at Tasmanian devils playing at midnight. It’s a clever representation of how many different types of family there are in Australia, prompting the reader to think about their own family’s rituals and style.

Tai Snaith is a Melbourne-based artist and writer. She has written and illustrated six picture books. The Family Hour was her first.

My Folks Grew Up in the ‘80s

by Robin and Beck Feiner

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My Folks Grew Up in the ‘80s book cover
Travel back in time to the 1980s in all its crimped hair glory with My Folks Grew Up in the ‘80s – and revisit the perms, cassette tapes, and breakdance moves that defined an era. This book opens up a great opportunity for carers and guardians to share their favourite decade with the young people in their lives.

“In the ‘80s, if you wanted to look cool, you’d put your hair in a machine that turned it into a fuzzy jumble of crazy zig zags.”

Robin and Beck Feiner live in Sydney with their family, collaborating on art projects in between books.

Be Your Own Man

by Jessica Sanders

Be Your Own Man by Jessica Sanders book cover
Be Your Own Man encourages young boys to think differently about what it means to be a boy. It’s a great tool for supporting them in feeling confident about who they truly are and embracing vulnerability by asking for help when they need it. The book normalises ‘softer’ sentiments, such as sensitivity, creativity, and caring for others through a diverse cast of relatable characters from different cultural backgrounds and with a full spectrum of abilities and behaviours.

“Every boy is different, but doesn’t it sometimes feel like there is just one way to be a boy.”

Jessica Sanders is a social worker, gender equality advocate, podcast host and award-winning author, with a passion for creating resources that nurture positive mental health and promote gender equality for young people, parents and educators.

Has Dad Joined the Circus?

by Robert Boddington

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has dad joined the circus? book cover
Help kids fall asleep without mum or dad in the room with Has Dad Joined the Circus? Viet’s dad doesn’t stay in the room at bedtime anymore and as the book explores where he may have gone via the sea, the moon, and the circus, Kip figures out his sleep issues through an evidence-based technique called Camping Out.

“But he could be in a submarine deep in the ocean befriending a squid.”

Robert Boddington is one of the authors of the Sleep with Kip series by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

My Superhero

by Chris Owen

My Superhero by Chris Owen book cover
In My Superhero, a young child imagines their dad as a superhero. The book beautifully captures the admiration and awe that children often have for their fathers. Potentially a moving read for a grieving kid ready to celebrate their Dad.

“Superheroes – usually – are tall and very muscly. They’re often blessed with handsome looks and spend their weekends catching crooks.”

Chris Owen‘s narrative is brought to life by Moira Court’s captivating artwork. He’s originally from Sussex in England and now lives in Perth – teaching, walking, snorkelling and eating homemade apple pie and custard.

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Don’t Forget

by Jane Godwin

Don’t Forget by Jane Godwin book cover
Don’t Forget is a reflection on what’s important to remember: is it making your bed? Wearing socks that fit? Caring? Playing? Running? Laughing? Or is it really the bigger things, like connection, friendships, and enjoying life? Clever questions thar inspire the reader to focus on the relationships they’ll remember forever.

The book begins, “Don’t forget your coat. Don’t forget to smile”.

Jane Godwin is an award-winning Australian author of more than 30 children’s books and is a former publisher at Penguin Books.

Reading inclusive Father’s Day books in the lead-up to Father’s Day can benefit both children and their families. Inclusive books that look beyond traditional portrayals of fathers are a celebration of the diversity of father figures in today’s families.

This can give kids in non-traditional family structures the inclusive language they need to speak more confidently about their situation, strengthen their bonds with friends, parents, carers and guardians, boost their confidence, and promote awareness, understanding and empathy in the people around them.

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By Charlie
Charlie Writes is a Sydney based, London born, Caribbean writer, interviewer and poet. A colourful 27 year career has taken Charlie from typing poems on the spot on her 1970’s typerwiter named June, to donning a hard hat as a roving reporter in the construction industry. All while living out her favourite quote that the greatest adventures begin with a simple conversation.