Family Story Backpacks

Family Story Backpacks are a transportable curriculum designed to facilitate the sharing of stories around themes significant to families in order to invite those stories into classrooms. Families are encouraged to share stories from their life experiences and to view their funds of knowledge as significant to their child and school. The backpacks facilitate partnerships between families and school and create excitement for children about sharing their families with their classmates.

Description of Family Story Backpacks

  • Transportable curriculum to encourage families to share stories around themes significant in their lives.
  • 4-6 children check out a backpack each week on a rotating basis to share with their families at home.
  • Each backpack contains 3 books (1 nonfiction global book and 2 fiction books), 1 artifact, and a family journal. The purpose of the artifact is to encourage the family to share oral stories around the theme.
  • The journal can take two forms. Each family can have their own journal that is moved from backpack to backpack so they can keep adding to the same journal. Another possibility is that each backpack can have a journal that stays with the backpack and 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.
  • A digital recorder to record the family’s stories can be included in the backpack.
  • The child should have a chance to share briefly about the family’s interactions around the backpack with the teacher or the class when the backpack is returned.

Examples of Family Story Backpacks

The backpacks listed here were created for cultural communities in Tucson, Ariz., and you will want to substitute books that fit your context. You also want to consider the themes that are significant to your students. Our backpack on rain is important because we have so little rain in the desert and the August monsoons are a major time of celebration—that would not be true for a rainy climate.

Time for Bed

  • Henderson, Kathy. Hush, Baby, Hush! Lullabies around the World – Global
  • Fox, Mem. A Bedtime Story – Australia
  • Braun, Sebastien. Back to Bed, Ed! – United Kingdom
  • Artifact: Lullaby gloworm

Let’s Play

Celebrating Birthdays

Grandparents are the Best

  • Stewart Konrad, Marla. Grand – Global
  • Brammer, Ethriam. My Tata’s Guitar/La guitarra de mi tata – Mexican
  • Smalls, Irene. My Nana and Me – African American
  • Artifact: Photo album (add several photos of grandparents with an invitation for the family to draw a picture or add a photo of their grandparents)

Families Have Many Cultures

Rainy Days

  • Cotton, Cynthia. Rain Play – US
  • Germein, Katrina. Big Rain Coming – Australia
  • Ward, Jennifer. The Sunhat – Southwest desert, US
  • Artifact: Small plastic play umbrella

Together as a Family

The Story of My Name

School Days

  • Jackson, Ellen. It’s Back to School We Go OR School in Many Cultures, Heather Adamson – global
  • Forward, Toby, What Did You Do Today? – UK
  • Ancona, George. Mi Escuela/My School – Bilingual, US
  • Artifact: Small white board and markers

Wiggly-Wobbly Teeth

*This engagement was created by Maria Acevedo and Kathy Short.

4 thoughts on “Family Story Backpacks

  1. Naheed Brown says:

    Absolutely LOVE these ideas! Just ordered my backpacks from Amazon. Will start the Backpack rotations from next week!! I am so excited! Thank you for the suggestions!

  2. Maggie Burns says:

    I am involved in sending Family Backpacks home with a group of striving ENL students in Grade 1. My group consists of students who speak Arabic, Karin, and Spanish. One of the issues that has come up is in translating the books for the families. We have translators through our school district, but the turnaround time is longer than we would want, especially if a book comes into the group awareness and they want to read it at home. Do you have any suggestions for translating books and letters home to families? Thank you!

  3. Kathy Short says:

    In a related project in Nashville, they had the books in their backpacks translated ahead of time in the major languages of their families. The translations were printed on large post-its that were then slid into the book over the English print. That made it easy to quickly convert a book as needed. They had those translations done in the summer ahead of time, that meant that it was only an occasional language that needed translation. Also, we tried to include a wordless book or a book with only a few words in each backpack. In other cases, we located bilingual books in English/Spanish to put in backpacks. Finally, we found that often the books were read aloud to the child by an older brother or sister or aunt with proficiency in English, rather than by the parents.

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