Explore Brothers and Sisters throughout Literature
Celebrate Brothers and Sisters Day on May 2, 2013 by studying sibling pairs in literature.
By Eliana Osborn
Starting with the classic Dick and Jane primer, kids are introduced to families in most every book they read. Whether your pupils are only children, or part of a big family, they can use what they know about family to connect with all sorts of literature.
Siblings in Literature, from Younger to Older Readers
- Ramona and Beezus in the Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary
- Peter and Fudge Hatcher in the Superfudge series by Judy Blume
- The Darlings in Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
- The Aldens in The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner
- Toddy and Falcon in Falcon’s Egg by Luli Gray
- Meg and Charles Wallace in A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
- Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
- Claudia and Jamie in The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
- Auggie and Via Pullman in Wonder by R.J. Palacio
- Ponyboy and Soda in The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
- The Tillerman’s in Dicey’s Song series by Cynthia Voigt
- Jem and Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Phoebe and Holden Caufield in Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Delve into Discussion
- How are you different on your own versus when you are with your siblings? Have you ever wanted to be an only child or part of a larger family? What do you think would be different?
- Do more stories have a main character with a sibling or without siblings? Why?
- What qualities do brothers and sisters usually exhibit? Are they fellow main characters or just minor characters? Do they make life easier or more difficult for the protagonist?
- Does birth order matter? Talk about common characteristics of oldest, youngest, and middle children. Does a character follow the rules or stereotypes of his or her place in the family?
- Come up with a list of protagonists without siblings, like Harry Potter, who had to find family with his friends.
Create with Projects
- Work as a class to make your own list of brothers and sisters from texts you have read in class. Divide into groups to present review information about the siblings to the class.
- Rewrite a scene of a story making someone an only child—would the situation be different, boring, or so much easier?
- Have kids count the number of times they interact with members of their family in one day. Tally conversations with adults and kids to see who they talk to more. What about activities, do they do more with their parents or siblings?
- Assign learners to interview someone who has a different family environment than their own. Ask about the positives and negatives of being an only child or one of many kids.
- Graph how many kids in the class are the oldest, youngest, only child, etc.
Extend Outside the Box
- Individually, in groups, or as a class, research birth order and it's affect on personality.
- How can people with big families find quiet space? How can only children avoid loneliness?
- Connect with genealogy, family history, and/or making a family tree.
- Use the examples of characters in books to help your students with the challenges they are facing in their own families.
Become your favorite character and show that you know your alternative identity. Dress up for an interview and act the part, trying to stick to the role.
Starting with a teacher example, learners display pictures and simple sentences about their families. Can be tailored for the specific needs of a group to be inclusive of individual circumstances.