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VIEWS Banning LGBTQ+ children's books will not erase us
by Theresa Volpe
2017-10-25

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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


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