The other day I was in the library with a friend and fellow teacher, cleaning up after a volunteer event. She was looking through the books on display on the top of the shelves and picked up a copy of King and King, a fractured fairy tale in which a prince, searching for his future wife, unexpectedly falls in love with another prince and the kingdom comes together for a glorious wedding of King and King. As she flipped through the pages, she said,
“Wow, we didn’t have any books like this when I was a kid. I didn’t even know I was gay until my mid-twenties. Didn’t know it was an option. If I’d had a book like this, it might have saved me some angry high school years.“
She went on to explain that, growing up in a small town, homosexuality was never talked about, unless it was in a negative context. She didn’t know any gay people, had no gay role models. She never learned about same sex relationships and had no idea that gay people could be long-term partners or parent children. Like so many young people, she learned about gay relationships in the context of fear instead of love.
I think a lot about providing books with a diversity of characters and families so that my students in same-sex families see themselves represented in literature. I hadn’t put much thought into the other perspective until my sweet friend stood in front of me, flipping through a picture book, grinning so hard her whole face lit up. Students with gay parents definitely deserve picture books with beautiful families like theirs, but they are not the only ones. Picture books are for everyone – and they should include everyone. We all need them, whether we know it or not.
It’s important to note that sharing books with same-sex families or LGBTQ characters does not have to mean starting an in-depth conversation with your child about sexuality.
I’ve taught thousands of children and have shared books featuring same-sex families with readers in every school or library where I’ve ever worked. In my experience, just like young children will happily accept that families have mommies and daddies without needing to go into detail, they will also smile, nod, and turn the page when families have mommies and mommies, daddies and daddies, just a mommy, just a daddy, a pair of grandpas, engaged aunties… you name it. Of course, not all same-sex couples have children; and that’s perfectly normal, too (many of the characters and plotlines in the books below reflect couples without children). If you want to take the conversation deeper, go for it! But sharing Heather Has Two Mommies at bedtime doesn’t necessarily have to lead to a talk about the birds and the bees. (If you do want to talk to your kiddo about same sex families, here’s a guide from Parents.com, or I love this down-to-earth conversation guide from a gay dad.)
While our library collection is full of vibrant, diverse, and inclusive books, not all of these resources make it to the blog. I’m making it a goal to change that. Below, you’ll find a list of my favorite picture books that feature same-sex families. Each of these books is a part of our library collection and has been read and enjoyed by students of all ages and their families. Some talk about same-sex families and the fact that they may be different or new, while others feature gay parents without direct comment. Either way, these titles are sweet, fun, and perfect for sharing. Below this list, I’ve included some resource lists from experts for you to continue your research. These lists also include middle grade and young adult titles (I hope to share my favorites for these age groups another time).
My favorite picture books that feature gay families:
- And Tango Makes Three
- Stella Brings the Family
- King and King (and, on our next order, Prince and Knight)
- A Tale of Two Daddies (and, on our next order, A Tale of Two Mommies)
- The Family Book
- Donovan’s Big Day
- Heather Has Two Mommies
- A Family is a Family is a Family
- The Great Big Book of Families
- Mommy, Mama, and Me
- Daddy, Papa, and Me
Resource lists for LGBTQ books:
- Common Sense Media’s Best of LGBTQ Books
- 7 Great Children’s Books with Same-Sex Parents
- 20 Must-Read LGBTQIA+ Children’s Books from The Conscious Kid
- 21 Children’s Books that Celebrate LGBT Families
- 12 Children’s Picture Books About Families with Gay Parents