10 of the Best Adoption Books to Read With Your Children

These are some of our family's favorites.

Jessica Good October 28, 2015

Our first placement, in April 2011, was a one-month-old baby girl. She was so tiny and had a pretty hectic schedule—occupational, physical, and speech therapy, developmental specialists, visitation, and court dates. Being our first parenting experience, it was obviously a huge adjustment. So, six weeks later, we did what any reasonable, sane person would do in our situation: we added two-year-old twins to the mix.

Life with three kids under three was like a crazy, messy, never-ending dream. It was beautiful and emotional and sometimes really confusing. And in the middle of it all, all of the appointments and chaos, there was a lot of bonding to be done in our insta-family. And what better way to bond as a family than to snuggle up with a good book? Of course with small children, this is often easier said than done, but I worked hard early on to make this daily practice a priority.

My children all came to us through foster care, and while I am always looking for great books for our collection about foster adoption, we have many titles that explore private adoption and international adoption as well. I love exploring all types of adoption and letting it open a conversation about how

Our kiddos are a bit bigger now (and there’s even a fourth one, because we like to keep things interesting around here), but one of our favorite things is still to huddle up at the end of the day and read a book together. And anytime they choose one of our beloved adoption books, my heart does leaps. It’s such a perfect way to celebrate them, keep the adoption conversation a part of our daily life, and start a discussion about anything specific that might come up.

Of course, each family and every kid is different. Certain things that work for us might be triggering for someone else, and vice versa. As with all potentially sensitive topics, I would recommend previewing each book carefully before sharing it with your child. There’s nothing worse than starting a story and realizing in the middle that it really isn’t a good choice for your specific situation. A little planning goes a long way!

The Red Thread by Grace Lin
1. The Red Thread by Grace Lin

This book starts out with a little girl asking her parents to read her this very book, which helps frame the adoption fairytale concept. And while the story itself is meant to be read as make-believe, the feelings behind it are very real- a deep desire for the parents, a King and Queen, to fill the space in their hearts that is causing them pain, and the incredible journey that leads them to their daughter. It is sweet and adventurous all in one. There is no mention here of birth parents, and in fact the baby is found alone on the front porch of an empty house. I am always sure remind my own kids that this story is pretend, but it could be problematic in certain situations, even with a discussion about this particular moment. It has become a favorite in our home, particularly with my fairytale-obsessed four-year-old. It’s a lovely book and well worth reading yourself to see if it will work for your family.

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis
2. Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis

This beautiful book tells the story of a domestic adoption, but it explains the concept of adoption so sweetly that it works many situations with a little extra dialogue. Something to know going in is that it does give a very specific reason for placement - that the birth mother was too young to care for the child. It’s a brief mention, and my children have never been terribly focused on it.

Motherbridge of Love by Xinran
3. Motherbridge of Love by Xinran

This is another book about international adoption from China in particular, but the gorgeous illustrations and love-filled language used make it a great jumping-off point to talk about any type of adoption. The beautiful thing here is the honor paid to the birth family - there is particular attention paid, and a deep respect represented here, as opposed to the lack of focus that is seen in many adoption-themed children’s books. Encouraging children to hold their birth families in honor and respect helps show them to honor and respect themselves and where they came from, and I love this book for encouraging that regardless of circumstances. One of my twin boys talks frequently about his adoption status and worries about his birth family often, and this book is a particular comfort to him.

A Mother for Choco by Kieko Kasza
4. A Mother for Choco by Kieko Kasza

This is one of my all-time favorite adoption books for children. It’s a great introduction for younger kids, but my seven-year-olds still ask for this one. It starts out feeling very much like the classic "Are You My Mother?" By P.D. Eastman, but instead of finding the mother that looks like him, our little bird friend finds a mother bear who wants to be his mother. Choco is worried at first that they don’t look alike, until he meets Mrs. Bear’s other children – a hippo, a pig, and an alligator. The colorful illustrations actually show that not all families look like each other, and while it doesn’t introduce any adoption language, the story is simple enough that adding in the terms that works for your situation is a cinch.

ABC, Adoption and Me - A Multi-Cultural Picture Book for Adoptive Families by Gayle H. Swift
5. ABC, Adoption and Me - A Multi-Cultural Picture Book for Adoptive Families by Gayle H. Swift

I love this adoption-positive ABC book! It celebrates adoption and family and addresses trickier subjects at the same time, without getting heavy or becoming tedious for kids. My absolute favorite aspect of this book is the letter R, which is for “real.” It explains that both biological parents and adoptive parents are “real” and makes it clear that this is not the correct term to explain the difference between the two. It’s written by a mother with her adopted daughter, and the happy tone and easy-to-follow language make it a perfect way to introduce and revisit a variety of adoption topics. Whether your kids are learning their letters or reading on their own, this is an ABC book worth having on the shelf.

How I Was Adopted by Joanna Cole
6. How I Was Adopted by Joanna Cole

This is a cute, upbeat intro to adoption terms for younger kids. The narrator, Samantha (or Sam, as she prefers), is spunky and thrilled to share her adoption story. There is a well-written intro for adults about talking about adoption with kids, and the illustrations are cute and colorful. My favorite things about this one: it includes great engaging questions at the end of the pages from Sam herself (“Are you adopted, too?” and “Do you know how old you were when you were adopted?” for instance), and that every page represents a wonderful array of skin tones, hair colors, and body shapes. I also appreciate that this book used the term “uterus” when talking about where a baby develops, rather than the more common “tummy,” and that there are simple illustration of a baby in the womb included in a book that Samantha’s parents are reading to her. To me, it’s a detail appropriate for younger children, and can easily be explained more in depth or skimmed over based on the reader’s preferences.

Oliver: An Adoption Story by Lois Wickstrom
7. Oliver: An Adoption Story by Lois Wickstrom

This book was brought into our home specifically for dealing with anger and the inevitable “If I were with my birth family, they wouldn’t make me (insert undesirable thing, like a time-out or a chore)!” It is a really short book for dealing with such big, big topics. But, it’s a great conversation starter and way to address the unpleasant feeling of injustice that every child experiences at some point. Oliver’s parents are patient with him and do not get upset or hurt when they realize that he is, in that moment, wishing for the life he thinks he might have if her were not adopted.

I Wished for You: An Adoption Story by Marianne R. Richmond
9. I Wished for You: An Adoption Story by Marianne R. Richmond

This is a sweet, cuddly little book full of soft colors and watery illustrations. It tells about little Barley, a bear cub, and his mama. It’s a lovely, uncomplicated story about what seems closest to a private adoption. There is very little mention of Barley’s birth family, but it does touch on them in a loving way, making a larger conversation easy to launch into, if that’s your goal. It also speaks about God helping bring Berkley and his mom together, so if that itself is not in keeping with your families beliefs, then this is not the book for you. My children enjoy this book because it really shows how special Barley is to his mom. She adores him and is honest about how long she waited to be a mom, and how sad that sometimes made her. Feeling like they are someone’s wish come true is so, so special for a child, and this book highlights that feeling.

Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman
10. Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman

So, this one isn’t specifically a book about adoption. It is, however, possibly the sweetest book about the love from a parent to a child that I have ever read. A story about this book: When my son started first grade, he really struggled. Every school day started and ended with tears, and in the middle were calls home and more tears. He was so down, and it brought up so many feelings and past trauma. It made him question his security in our family all over again, despite having been with us for three years and despite our many reassurances. It was a real rough patch for us. One night I read this book and he said, with big tears and a quivering lip, “Mom, that book makes me feel better. Can you please read it every day?” So I did. Every day for weeks. And even though I have it memorized, it still makes me tear up every. Single. Time. It’s really that good. We aren’t reading it every day right now, but it’s still in regular rotation.

On The Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
11. On The Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman

I feel like such a cheater here. Not only am I including two books here that aren’t specific to adoption, but they’re both by Nancy Tillman. Here’s the thing, though- Nancy Tillman is amazing. We might obsessively collect her books, and every last one could have been on this list, despite none of them mentioning the word adoption. They are warm and lovely and beautiful. I am including this one in particular because it tells about the whole world- the earth itself, the wind, the animals- celebrating the birth and uniqueness of a child. I love this one particularly for situations where, however wrong and however sad, a child may not have been celebrated in their birth or their early years. It is impossible for a child not to feel cherished after reading this book, and every child deserves to have that feeling.

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Jessica Good

Jess is married to a man also named Jess, which usually makes for some hilarity when reserving a table or signing up for cable. Together they have adopted four gorgeous children through foster care and are learning to let go of perfect and embrace the chaos. You can read more about their journey through infertility, foster care, and adoption on her blog.

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