Using Books to Explain Gay Families to Children

October is National Book Month, a great opportunity to explore titles that will bring your library to life with diversity, tolerance and some new storylines that address the topic of same-sex couples.

It is very likely that your child will have a classmate, friend, family member that has two moms or two dads. Or as a parent in a same sex relationship, it's powerful to not only have these books on your personal library’s shelves, but in your child's classroom in as well. Talk to your child’s teacher about incorporating these titles to make all children feel represented, reflected and respected in the stories read in class.

Since "family" is a common curriculum theme taught to elementary-aged children, it's a chance to include these titles as part of what makes up all types of families.  

Related: Talking To Your Kids About Sexual Orientation

Dr. Jeff Sapp, a professor at California University, adds, “Most early children’s books with variant gender themes offer even our youngest children models of the different ways families are made.”

While a book is helpful when the topic comes up, it is also important to remember to include these titles in your library and not always necessary to point out the difference, but rather accept how we all come from different families. How often does a parent explain to their child before reading Cinderella that it is a story about two heterosexuals falling in love and living happily ever after? Embrace books about many kinds of families with the same acceptance and ease.

For younger children

 King and King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland

Fracturing fairy tales is very common among children’s books that address diversity because the original story or idea is common knowledge among many children and the differences are easy to point out. King and King is a great example as it focuses on The Prince, a young man who is being pressured by his mother to find a princess. He finally agrees to look for a wife, but also adds that he “never cared much for princesses.” After going through many visits from plenty of princesses, he finally finds a mate! But it is not the beautiful Princess Madeleine, but rather her brother, Prince Lee! True to all fairy tales, the wedding is gorgeous and perfect and everyone does live happily ever after. While this book is not in-your-face controversial, it does give parents an opportunity to discuss the prince’s lifestyle choice.

A Tale of Two Daddies by Vanita Oelschlager, Illustrated by Kristin Blackwood, and A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oelschlager, Illustrated by Mike Blanc.

Both of these books are great for younger children with their bright illustrations and easy storyline with rhymes that bring a smile to your face. Both stories center around a child who is adopted by a same sex couple and answers questions about their mommies or daddies. The questions are simple, as most are coming from children, but important: “Which dad would build your home in a tree?” and “Which mom is there when you want to go fishing?” The basic message is very clear at the end of both stories, and it is not the issue of same-sex couples, but rather the message of love.

Related: Why Parents Need to Start Those "Grown Up" Talks Earlier

Daddy’s Roomate, written and illustrated by Michael Willhoite

Written with simple sentences accompanying friendly illustrations, the story is told from a young boy’s point of view after his parents divorce. The boy explains that after his dad moved out, his daddy and his roommate move in together. Very simply stated with one sentence below a picture on each page, “Daddy and his roommate Frank live together. Work together. Eat together. Sleep together,” and so on. The book depicts the family doing regular activities: fishing, watching baseball, cleaning the yard and it even shows Frank and Daddy fighting and making up, like any couple would do. Dr. Glenn Miya, a pediatrician from California, recommends this book because “The book is realistic and simple enough for any first grader to grasp and mundane enough for any anxious parent to give it a G-rating.”

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, Illustrated by Peter Parnell

A favorite among many families, this loving story is based on a true story of two male penguins living in New York’s Central Park Zoo. Roy and Silo, two male penguins, share a nest at the zoo. As their neighboring penguin families start to hatch their eggs and welcome cute fuzzy penguin babies into their nest, they realize they want the same. They are so determined to be parents, they even bring an egg-shaped rock into their nest and care for it. Thankfully, a caring zookeeper gives them an egg that needs some love and after some time, Roy and Silo hatch a lovely penguin girl. With the book’s soft watercolor illustrations and all-around loving storyline, this is a must-have on every child’s bookshelf.

For young adults

It is also cruical that our older children to be aware of titles that have characters who are gay. The power of seeing yourself, a friend or a loved one depicted in a novel can be life changing.  Vida Engstrand, Senior Publicist from Kensington Publishing Corporation suggests the below titles for young adults. “And I’m just happy these kinds of books are being published at all these days,” Engstrand says. “Just 10 years ago, there was nothing for gay teens to read and relate to.”

DON’T LET ME GO by J.H. Trumble

THE EVOLUTION OF ETHAN POE Robin Reardon

Michael Griffo’s THE ARCHANGEL ACADEMY trilogy – UNWELCOME, UNNATURAL and UNAFRAID

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