Visibility sends a positive message of inclusion.
Nowhere is this more important than in childhood. Seeing images and hearing stories reflective of a child's family structure, life history, perceptions, gender identity and, yes, struggles affirm a child's sense of belonging. As a same-sex coupled parent, I look for opportunities where my children can see themselves reflected in the world around them. I've turned to children's books to teach them their ABCs, 123s, how to go potty, why Heather has two mommies, how amazing it is that the baby penguin, that Tango has two dads and about a brave child named Jazz who lives her true self in the face of adversity, opening hearts and changing minds.
The challenges of finding LGBT-focused children's books has always been difficult. But the slim inventory of published books have taught my children their lives aren't invisible. When I witness fearmongers, like the couple in West Chicago who tried and failed to have the book This Day in June, by Gayle E. Pitman, removed from a public library, and how others across the country continue to challenge this book, I am reminded of the day I received a phone call from my middle child's teacher about an incident involving the book And Tango Makes Three. It was Banned Book Week. The school librarian, advocating against censorship and celebrating the freedom to read, explained to my child's class before reading And Tango Makes Three how it was banned in certain libraries because the penguin in the story has two dads.
When the teacher noticed my child was physically upset after hearing why the book appears on the banned book list, he tried to console my child, asking what was so upsetting. My child replied, "And Tango Makes Three is a special book in my family. I'm sad because I like the book a lot, and my sister likes the book too. I feel bad that other kids will not be able to read this book and get to like it as much as I do. I want them to be able to read the book."
I was left with mix emotions after the phone call. On the one hand, I was proud my child could articulate his feelings about the importance of the book to our family. On the other hand, I was angry about the negative message my child had received. A book, closely matching his family structure was considered so horrible, libraries didn't allow it in the library. This said to him, "Having same-sex parents is bad." Fortunately, I was able to have a conversation with him to help better understand why peoples' beliefs and narrow-mindedness prevent them from seeing the good in most things, like two penguins who love one another and love their baby.
Instilling fear in others will not erase the existence of children with same-sex parents and LGBTQ+ kids yearning to be accepted for who they are. The people who are challenging children's books with LGBTQ+ themes claim they wish to protect their children from the evils of life and viewpoints not matching their beliefs. Really? Well, so am I. Grow some empathy.
For those wishing to support and share diverse and inclusive LGBT family friendly books with your children, here is a quick snapshot of books. Kindly, but firmly request your local library include these in the children's titles in the children's section of the library where they can be seen. Not in some far-off location labeled with a red sticker, requiring permission from a parent to check them out.
ABC: A Family Alphabet Book, by Bobbie Combs
And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Annie's Plaid Shirt, by Stacy B. David
The Boy Who Cried Fabulous, by Leslea Newman
The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived, by Daniel Errico and Ida M. Schouw Andreasen
Cookies and Cake & The Families We Make, by Jennifer L. Egan
A Crow of His Own, by Megan Dowd Lambert
The Daddy Book, by Todd Parr
The Family Book, by Todd Parr
It's Okay to Be Different Todd Parr
The Mommy Book, by Todd Parr
Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman
Daddy, Papa, and Me, by Leslea Newman
Felicia's Favorite Story, by Leslea Newman
Donovan's Big Day, by Leslea Newman
Mommy, Mama, and Me, by Leslea Newman
Sparkle Boy, by Leslea Newman
Daddy's Roommate, by Michael Willhoite
Jacob's New Dress, by Sarah and Ian Hoffman.
King & King, by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland
King & King and Family, by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland
Keesha's South African Adventure., by Cheril N Clarke and Monica Bey-Clarke
Home at Last. Vera B. Williams and Chris Raschka.
Molly's Family, by Nancy Garden
Momma Days, Mommy Days, by Isabella Moreno
Daddy's Wedding, by Michael Willhoite
This Day in June
The Different Dragon, by Jennifer Bryan
The Flower Girl Wore Celery, by Meryl Gordon
Families, by Susan Kuklin
A Family is a Family is a Family, by Sara O'Leary
Gordon the Giraffe, by Bruce Brown and A. Shelton
Hugs of Three: My Daddies and Me, by Dr. Stacey Bromberg and Dr. Joe Taravella
Hugs of Three: My Mommies and Me, by Dr. Stacey Bromberg and Dr. Joe Taravella
I am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
In Our Mothers' House, by Patricia Polacco
Introducing Teddy, by Jessica Walton
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, by Christine Baldacchino and Isabelle Malenfant
My Princess Boy, by Cheryl Kilodavis
My Two Uncles, by Judith Vigna
The Great Big Book of Families, by Mary Hoffman.
One Family, by George Shannon
One of a Kind, Like Me/Unico Como Yo, by Laurin Mayeno
Oliver Button is a Sissy, by Tomie DePaola
Peacock Among Pigeons, by Tyler Curry
The Purim Superhero, by Elisabeth Kushner
The Sisssy Duckling, by Harvey Fierstein
Square Zair Pair, by Jase Peeples
Stella Brings the Family, by Miriam B. Schiffer
The Adventures of Tulip, Birthday Wish, by Fairy. S. Bear Bergman.
A Tale of Two Daddies, by Vanita Oelschlager
A Tale of Two Mommies, by Vanita Oelschlager
Will You Love Me Still?, by Shirley M Ringo and Glenda MacInnis
Worm loves worm, by J. J. Austrian
Suggestions for the middle schooler:
The Boy in the Dress, by David Williams
The Case of the Stolen Scarab, by Nancy Garden
From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun, by Jacqueline Woodson
Gracefully Grayson, by Ami Polonsky.
Gay America: Struggle for Equality, by Linas Alsenas
Gay & Lesbian History for Kids, by Jerome Pohlen
Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community, by Robin Stevenson
Lily and Dunkin, by Donna Gephart
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, by Dana Alison Levy
The Harvey Milk Story, by Kari Krakow
The Misfits, by James Howe
Totally Joe, by James Howe
So Hard to Say, by Alex Sanchez