Did you know the first Pride parade took place 50 years ago in June, 1970? These picture books about the history of the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights will inform your kids about the important figures and events in the movement for LGBTQIA+ equal rights, as well as teach empathy, kindness and the value of including others.
We harm our children if we teach them–either with words or actions–that it is okay to otherize people who may not be like ourselves. In addition, LGBTQIA+ youth, and those who have friends and family who identify as such deserve to be valued and to see their stories in books, too. I hope you will share these titles with your children, starting a conversation about how you–and they–can work towards equal rights and acceptance for all.
For more of our children's book recommendations featuring LGBTQIA+ characters peruse the following book lists:
- LGBTQIA+ picture books to teach inclusion
- LGBTQIA+ middle grade and chapter books for ages 8 and up
- Picture books that challenge gender stereotypes
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If you choose to purchase books online, you can still support your local bookstore by ordering through Bookshop. For your convenience, you can find this curated list at Bookshop here.
LGBTQ Picture Book Biographies
I was disappointed with the dearth of picture book biographies of leaders in the LGBTQ movement but I am hopeful that authors, illustrators publishers will answer the call for more. In the meantime check out these stories of inspiring LGBTQIA+ activists and change-makers.
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag
by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Steven Salerno
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.
Mayor Pete: The Story of Pete Buttigieg
by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Levi Hastings
I haven't read this book yet–it will be released July 2020 and I will update this blurb when I do. It has received positive critical reviews. Your children will enjoy reading about a man whose name they heard in the news recently. Pete Buttigieg, as you know, is the first openly gay man to run for the presidential nomination of a major political party.
Sewing the Rainbow: A Story About Gilbert Baker
by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
This biography follows Gilbert Baker, who grew up loving color and sparkle in the gray landscape of Kansas. His father shunned his pursuits and he became a soldier instead of following his dreams. Eventually he made his way to San Francisco and came up with the idea for the rainbow flag after talking with Harvey Milk (see above biography). Pitman emphasizes the importance of not suppressing one's "colorful, sparkly, glittery self," even if others disapprove. An author's not explains the flag's connection to the gay rights movement.
Were I Not a Girl: The Inspiring and True Story of Dr. James Barry
by Lisa Robinson, illustrated by Lauren Simkin Berke
I haven't read this book yet–it will be released October 2020 and I will update this blurb when I do. This is a picture book biography about James Barry, who was born Margaret Bulkley in 19th century England. After "Margaret" realized he was James, he went to medical school and became a doctor and soldier.
General LGBTQ History for Kids
Rather than focusing on a specific individual, the following titles offer up perspective on events and look at LGBTQIA+ history as well as the present state of the movement for equality.
Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution
by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Jamey Christoph
Sanders' history of Stonewall's role in the gay rights movement is narrated by Stonewall Inn itself! It's a fun literary conceit and begins with the erection of the inn in the 19th century. Stonewall Inn goes on to explain the significance of the evens of June 28, 1969 and the events that followed. I think this is a great book book for a read aloud, but could do a better job of including the non-cisgender and BIPOC communities. Includes endnotes.
This Day in June
by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten
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 LGBTQIA+ issues.
Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community
by Robin Stevenson
With its colorful photographs and informative text, Stevenson's book is a good choice for middle schoolers. Stevenson covers not just the Pride parade but many different aspects of Pride, the movement for equal rights, real stories of teens who "came out," and includes a diverse population within the LGBTQIA+ community.
Gay & Lesbian History for Kids: The Century-Long Struggle for LGBT Rights
by Jerome Pohlen
This is another good choice for sharing the LGBTQ historical and current movements with middle schoolers and teens. Kids will be introduced to new and fascinating individuals. Pohlen includes activities that readers can do to enhance their understanding of the struggle for LGBTQIA+ rights such as write a free-verse poem or ask an adult about their own experiences with boycotts and protests.
Don't forget about our other related book lists!