The L.A.'s Finest star hopes her book makes all kids in "non-traditional" families know they were "welcomed and wanted and celebrated"

By Julie Jordan
May 06, 2020 11:08 AM

The power of family is everything to actress Gabrielle Union.

So when it came time to read to her 18-month-old daughter Kaavia James with her husband, NBA pro Dwyane Wade, 38, the actress looked for books that addressed her daughter's birth via surrogate.

"A lot of them tend to show an expectant mom and a hospital visit and then the baby comes home," Union, 47, tells PEOPLE for this week's issue. "But for so many families where you didn't physically give birth to your child, there's not a ton of literature."

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Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade
| Credit: Gabrielle Union/Instagram

Taking matters into her own hands, the L.A.'s Finest star wrote her new children's book, Welcome to the Party, which celebrates Kaavia's arrival into their clan that includes Wade's sons Zaire, 18, and Xavier, 6, and daughter Zaya, 12 (all from previous relationships).

"I wanted to create a love letter to my daughter to let her know that even though her entry into our family was a bit non-traditional, we love her and wanted her," Union adds. "And she is celebrated."

While working on the book, illustrated by Ashley Evans, Union became inspired by her own mother. "My mom at 60 years old and divorced, adopted the first of three children," the actress says. "And now she's 73 and a single mom raising teens and preteens."

Union hopes her book helps "celebrate these kinds of families. This is my love letter to every nontraditional family, blended families, that no matter how you became a new family, it is beautiful and real."

Gabrielle Union
Gabrielle Union and daughter
| Credit: Gabrielle Union/Instagram
gabrielle union and dwyane wade family
Credit: Gabrielle Union/instagram

Having made a name for her daughter already on Instagram — Kaavia has 1.2 million followers and counting — Union says she's appreciative of the quality time they've been able to spend together in quarantine in L.A. along with Wade and daughter Zaya.

"When I was working, if I was lucky enough to get home for bath time, that had become my favorite [time]. She's a little sleepy. She's more cuddly. Then it's going to bed and reading," Union recalls. "Now it's after her first nap. She's rested, and she's got a ton of energy, and she wants to swim, play, learn. This quarantine time has actually been awesome, just to be such an integral part of so much discovery for her."

As for what Kaavia thinks of her mom's new book, Union admits "it has not cracked her top five of favorites — yet!" she says, laughing. "And I'm taking that in stride."

For more from Gabrielle Union, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.