What if you could help children simply by reading picture books that portray their life stories in a positive light? Would you do it?
Of course you would!
After all, every child deserves to see themselves and their families represented in a positive light in picture books, and every child benefits from seeing the diversity of the world reflected in the books they read. As you may know, LGBTQ youth suffer from bullying, depression and suicide rates that far surpass their heteronormative peers. (Learn more at the Human Rights Campaign.) Reading picture books that show LGBTQ youth and families as positive members of the community will help those children feel valued and make the world a safer place for them! And isn’t that what we want for all children?
To help you get started, here is a list of some of my favorite LGBTQIA picture books. Why LGBTQIA instead of just LGBT? The acronym keeps growing as the public gains a greater understanding of the diversity of gender and sexual orientation! LGBTQIA stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, and asexual/allied. Will it get even longer someday? Maybe!
Don’t forget, these books are for everyone. (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman. This is a short, sweet and joyful look at the Pride parade and celebration that happens every June for Pride Month. The rhyming text makes it perfect for preschoolers and an endnote gives further information as well as helpful advice for talking to young children about LGBTQ issues.
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders. This is an excellent picture book biography about Milk, an activist who wanted to make the world a more equal and welcoming place for all people. The narrative focuses on Milk’s relentless dream and message of hope as well as the story of the rainbow flag as an enduring symbol that love is love.
A Family is a Family is a Family by Sara O’Leary. In a classroom full of diverse students, a teacher asks the children to describe their families. They are all different. Some have a mom and dad, another lives with their grandparent, another has divorced parents, another step-siblings. There are LGBTQ families, disabled parents, foster families and more. The narrator is a child listening to all of the descriptions and realizes that all families are special because they are made up of people who love each other.
A Church for All by Gayle E. Pitman. It saddens me that so many people still use religion as a way to discriminate agains others, especially against the LGBTQ community. This book, with it’s spare and simple text tosses that excuse for discrimination to the dustbin. The illustrations depict people of all shapes, sizes, colors and orientations joyfully going to church. Inside, the church is decorated with rainbow flags and banners proclaiming the message that God loves all, and all are welcome in His house.
Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack. This is your new fairy tale! Told in a bouncy rhyme, the story details the search by the royal family for a bride for the prince. But no one seems to strikes the prince’s fancy. Until a knight helps the prince defeat a dangerous dragon that threatens the kingdom! The illustrations will bring to mind certain popular animated fairy tale movies! Also read the companion book, Maiden & Princess.
It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity by Theresa Thorn. This is a straight-forward book that introduces children as a way to teach about different gender identities, including transgender, cisgender, binary and more. “This is Ruthie. She’s a transgender girl….” The text is easy to understand and age appropriate. The overall message is one of acceptance; it is okay to be yourself and to feel good about who you are. An endnote glossary gives definitions of the terms used in the book.
Jerome By Heart by Thomas Scotto. I loved this book! Raphael is great friends with Jerome. His parents don’t really understand the friendship, but Raphael loves the way he and Jerome laugh together, the way his friend defends him, and the stories he tells. Raphael says it is easy to love Jerome. The book is so flexible because readers can acknowledge the importance of having caring, same-gender friendships. Others will take away a subtle message about acceptance of LGBTQ relationships. Overall, the tone of the story is one of joy. Lovely.
When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff. This is such a sweet story and perfect for non-cisgender siblings. When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl but when he realized he was a transgender boy his accepting and loving parents changed the things that needed changing so he could live his best life. Now Aidan is about to become a brother and he wants to make sure everything is perfect for his sibling, just like everything is now perfect for him.
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall. Red is labeled as a red crayon, but actually he is Blue. Everyone tries to help him be “red.” They are well meaning but Red is miserable. He even tries to color objects like fire trucks and strawberries, but it doesn’t help. But then Berry suggests he try to color something blue, and it works! Suddenly Red feels happy and true to himself now that he can really and truly be Blue.
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. After seeing some fancily dressed women on the subway, Julián wants to dress up. At home he turns his abuela’s fern into a fancy hat, and her curtains into a mermaid’s tail. But instead of getting upset at Julián, his abuela takes him to a celebration where everyone is as fantastically dressed as he is. A lovely and warm story about acceptance and expressing yourself.
Sparkle Boy by Lesléa Newman. Casey loves all things that sparkle. Yes, he loves to play with trucks and blocks but when he sees sparkly skirts and jewelry he wants some for himself too. The grownups are all accepting and let Casey be himself, but his sister Jesse is skeptical and insists that sparkly stuff is not for boys. But one day at the library when another child teases him, Jesse stands up for her brother. This is a great book about not trying to box children into a single idea of who they should be.
Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer. Stella doesn’t feel different than the other kids, but she realizes her parents are different from a lot of the other families she knows. Her school class is planning a Mother’s Day celebration, so Stella comes up with a way to include her two dads. The lovely way the book communicates that schools can accept families of all kinds sends a positive message that families may look different, but the love is the same.
What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg. Yes, this is an information picture book about how babies are made, and you might be surprised to find it on a list of LGBTQTIA children’s books but it is wonderful! This is a not-dumbed down version of how things work and it is entirely age appropriate. The text normalizes all the ways families come together, through the “normal” way, by adoption, surrogacy and affirms that that parents come in all types.
In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco. I’ve mentioned before that you can always count on finding a book to suit your needs if you turn to Polacco’s enormous oeuvre. In this story, young black girl narrates her happy familial existence. She has two moms and a multicultural, adopted family. They have loving traditions and a warm, affectionate home life. Unfortunately a neighbor directly confronts the family to tell them she doesn’t approve of their family! Use this book to talk to your kids about others are afraid of what they do not understand (a wise lesson that one of the mothers in the book teaches her child) and challenge your kids to think about how we can overcome prejudice and open people’s hearts.
Monday is One Day by Arthur A. Levine. I love this sweet picture book. Diverse families spend each week day engaging in ordinary activities. But each day is somehow punctuated with something special for families to connect with each other. When the weekend rolls around, children, parents and other loved ones come together to celebrate. The illustrations depict all kinds of families!
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