Sunday, 20 September 2020

Our Favourite Books For Teaching Diversity & Gender Identity To Kids

One thing I am asked about regularly is how to introduce the topic of gender identity to children, and although simple conversation is always my favourite way to approach any topic with my kids - I am also a big fan of using children's books to help introduce new concepts or expand upon "big" subjects or things that feel tricky to discuss for whatever reason.

So with that in mind, today I'm going to share with you some of our favourite books to help promote an understanding of diversity and gender identity in children. There are many books out there that cover these important subjects so this list is by no means exhaustive, but these are the ones that my own children have found the most helpful.

A House For Everyone by Jo Hirst

This book focuses on a group of children who play together during their lunch break at school.

It's a very simple story without a great deal of plot line, but it does an excellent job of introducing a variety of different gender identities and explaining them in an accessible and simple way.

The story includes a cisgender boy who has long hair, a cisgender girl who doesn't like to wear dresses and prefers to wear her hair short, a transgender boy, and a non-binary child who uses they/their pronouns. The inclusion of a non-binary child is, in my experience, a rare find in a childrens book which is what makes this a fantastic addition to an inclusive and educational childrens book collection.

As well introducing characters across the gender spectrum, the book is also beautifully illustrated and inclusive of different skin tones too. There's a section in the back which gives advice to grow ups on how to use the book to discuss the subject of gender with children, as well as explanation of gender identities for adults.

I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings 

This was the first book about gender that we ever owned, and it remains a firm favourite with my children - particularly with my transgender child.

The book tells the story of Jazz, who - as a young child - feels unhappy in their "boy" body. The story talks us through Jazz's feelings and experiences, how she discusses things with her family who take her to visit their Dr. The story walks us through her experience of social transition, in a child-friendly way - from her experiences at school to her families feelings.

It's a lovely story and one that is likely to be both comforting and affirming to gender questioning children, and interesting and informative to cisgender children.

My Awesome Brother by Lise Frances

This is, again, quite a simple story which is told from the perspective of a little boy who's older sister, Donna, has become unhappy and withdrawn. The story covers the boys attempts to help Donna to feel happier, and the eventual revelation that Donna is transgender - when Donna transitions to Jonathan, he is happier and the siblings are able to have fun together again.

This would be a good book for children who have transgender or non-binary siblings, to help them to understand the situation.

The Girls by Lauren Ace

This is a beautiful story about a group of 4 friends, who have known each other all of their lives. The story follows their friendship from childhood through to adulthood, and does a fantastic job of breaking hetero-normative stereotypes without making the fact that one of them is gay a central story focus.
It's merely one element of the overall story and shown by way of the girls attendance at a Pride march, and the appearance of their wife in some illustrations. As important as it is to have some books that focus on actively discussing topics, I think it's equally as important to have some stories that just happen to include diverse characters - this book does that wonderfully.

The Great Big Book Of  Families by Mary Hoffman

This final choice isn't a story book, but more an informative book discussing all of the different ways that families might look and live. It ranges from covering what people may be in your family, to the type of home you might live in, the type of food you might eat and the things you might enjoy doing in your spare time.

It does a fantastic job of stressing that every family will look and live very differently, and is inclusive across the board - from including same sex parents to including various religions, employed and unemployed parents, adoptive families and many many more variables. One that every child should have.

I hope this list has been useful, and that you'll consider adding some of these books to your own childrens collections.

I'm a firm believer that all children should have books that educate them on diversity and promote an understanding of LGBTQ+ people, regardless of whether they have currently have family member or friends that belong to these groups - promoting awareness and understanding of these subjects from a young age will help to ensure that we are raising inclusive and empathic children who are, hopefully, less likely to react negatively to any LGBTQ+ people they come to know throughout their lives.

I firmly believe that it is the responsibility of all parents to do our part to raise a knowledgeable and inclusive generation.

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