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Family Story Backpacks

Guidelines for selecting materials


Description of Family Story Backpacks

  • Transportable curriculum to facilitate the sharing of stories around themes significant to families. Children check out the backpacks on a rotating basis for one week to share with their families at home.
  • Each backpack contains 3 books (1 nonfiction and 2 fiction books), 1 related artifact, and a family story journal. The purpose of the artifact is to encourage the family to share oral stories around the theme.
  • Each backpack has a journal for that theme. Each family adds an entry and reads past entries from other families.
  • Entries in journals can be a family story related to the theme, responses to the books, or descriptions of what the family did with the backpack. Any member of the family can add to the journal and the entries can be drawings, writing, photos, etc. Families can make multiple entries related to each backpack.
  • Short interviews are conducted with children as they return the backpacks about their family’s interactions around the backpack.


Criteria for selecting themes:

  • Broad themes that connect to shared experiences in families or memories across generations.
  • Relevant to young children’s lives in families
  • Relevant to the community


Criteria for selecting books:

  • 1 concept book: usually also global literature, representing how people in different cultures or cultural communities engage with the theme of the backpack. This concept book also provides for a wide range of connections for families and introduces them to difference within a common experience.
  • 2 picture story books: each from a different culture or cultural community.

ο Multiple perspectives: Stories that represent a variety of ways in which people live and experience the theme. Example: different ways in which families, children and/or the community play or prepare to go to bed.
ο The two stories connect to the interests and potential connections of the local community.

  • Bilingual/Wordless books: Each backpack contains either a bilingual book or a wordless book to support families in sharing literature and stories in different languages.
  • Balance: Between male and female as main characters.
  • Sharing literature: Books can be shared in different ways. Families can read aloud and/or story about the book.
  • Engagement: Books and artifacts that have strong potential to engage children based on teacher knowledge and previous experiences using books with young children.


Criteria for selecting artifacts:

  • Encourage storying (sharing and listening to stories) through play.

ο Example: the backpack about Play includes a plastic ball and board games because it is appropriate to the theme and families can share stories while playing.
ο Example: photo album to which families are invited to add their own photos/drawings of their grandparents.

  • Based on themes across the books, or mentioned in the text or represented in the illustrations of the book(s).

ο Example: Birthday candles inside the backpacks about birthdays.

  • Closely connected to the theme of the backpack, but not necessarily mentioned in the books

ο Example: a little plastic umbrella as part of the backpack about rain.
ο Example: ABC wooden blocks as part of the backpack about names

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