Some kid’s lit questions for the hive mind

In which I ask you all for your collective insights, which I know to be legion, and which I ask after all too rarely.

This Thursday evening I’ll be talking to our former (and future!) preschool director’s Children’s Literature class.  It’s offered for early childhood educators who are in the process of getting their credentials, and I was honored (up the wazoo) to have been asked by her to talk to them last year, too.  All must have went well enough, since she asked me a second time.

The talk was about family diversity — specifically LGBT family diversity — in literature for children. I did some amateur sleuthing, some book list compiling (so many sources!), some talking to librarians and some checking out from both the public library and our family’s library. Handouts with lengthy book lists were procured (when I update the compilation for this week’s presentation, I’ll include a post here at LD, ideally incorporating the list into a more comprehensive LD link page). The outline of the talk went  like this:

1. Intro of who I am (parent, educator, LGBT activist, but not a kid’s lit specialist by any means)

2. Some useful bits of info about “alternative” families in general (more of us than the “nuclear norm” since 2000 census; e.g. these kinds of stats) & LGBT families in particular (#s in state & county; other details about who we are, based on the 2007 study conducted by Our Family Coalition et al.)

3. Some reasons why it’s a good idea to introduce family diversity in early childhood curriculum (including the challenges people face when doing so, with local and national examples of school district battles and the “challenged” LGBT-friendly kids’ books at libraries)

4. Some suggestions about how to approach the topic

5. Some examples of some of the literature, which I sort thusly in this rough fashion and note are weighted toward the two-gal-headed families more than two-guy-headed, since that’s what I know (I hasten to add that the book lists are comprehensive & I check out and distribute titles like Daddy, Papa and Me, Daddy’s Wedding, and One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads Blue Dads):

Early generation LGBT books: kinda head-on or “frontal,” presuming a hostile or ignorant readership and functioning to directly explain what in the Sam Hill we are:

Books which place LGBT family diversity in context of other types of family diversity:

Books  which take LGBT family diversity as a given and ostensibly focus on something else entirely

Books which address gender identity among younger people (as vs. “alternative” family structure), a strong/related concern for many LGBT families

Books which address difference in other arenas than family structure and can be used in addtion &/or via analogy [ed note: oops! forgot to include this when I posted]

    • It’s Okay to Be Different, by Todd Parr
    • I Like Myself!, by Karen Beaumont

My questions to you, hive mind of LD readers, are the following:

  1. How would you suggest this outline be improved upon or added to?
  2. What books would you want to be sure to have highlighted, and why?
  3. Anything else you think would be important for early childhood educators to know or think about, regarding LGBT family diversity in kid’s lit?

Or just share your thoughts. If you’re not registered for the commenting and want to, let me know via the LD Contact page. Or just email me something directly that-a-way.


12 thoughts on “Some kid’s lit questions for the hive mind”

  1. The one book we love is Everywhere Babies, which just takes various family structures for granted. (I also love that it very casually shows a breastfeeding mama, a pretty clearly adoptive family, etc.)

    Love to see your Maine equality stuff in the sidebar, btw! I have been just gobsmacked that the Catholic Church is running the referendum campaign to overturn the gay marriage vote. They are literally running 2nd collections for the campaign. I shouldn’t be astonished… but I am.

    • You are more than welcome to the solidarity. A huge percentage of the support for the CA No on Prop8 campaign was from out of state. Am taking a moment from the dinner-bath-books-bed routine here otherwise I’d Google it & find out just how much. I owe the Iowa folks a sidebar link, too, forthcoming. Lordy lord. Re the church’s double-fisted fundraising (god on one hand, anti-gay on the other). Well. Hard to say more than, I think the adage always holds (re: demographics, venal national trends, sometimes economic ones too) as goes CA so goes the nation. Most of the time it’s just mildly predictive, sometimes ominous.

      And thank you for the book reccomendation! I see a lot of them on these lists, and have only read so many. Knowing which are beloved and meaningfully incorporated by Actual LGBT families really matters.

  2. One of the books that I love for very young children is Everywhere Babies. There are many, many families pictured in the book and LGBT families are in the mix. There is a page with a picture of two exhausted moms in bed together with a bassinet beside the bed. There are gay dads. There are alls sorts of families and a lot of racial diversity. Love it.

  3. I’d make sure to highlight And Tango Makes Three (which I’d probably place in the contextual category) and Uncle Bobby’s Wedding (taking diversity as a given). Also the two new toddler board books by Leslea Newman, Mommy, Mama, and Me, and Daddy, Papa, and Me. Unlike Heather, they fall into the “taking diversity as a given” category. Also, In Our Mother’s House by Patricia Polacco is a good one for the older elementary set. Mostly takes it as a given, but touches gently on homophobia. (See my post that covers the last three above, as well as my fuller interview with Newman.)

    Have fun with your talk–awesome that you’re doing this.

    • Thank you Dana! I was hoping I’d be able to get your two cents on this, which rates as many many times more than that sum in my estimation. Among the many sources I’ve cross-referenced for ideas about what’s out there has been your blog and your many, regular posts and reviews.

      Thank you, also, to Melanie and Jeff for writing offline! Much, much appreciated (and I’ll say so directly as well).

  4. Before you take my recommendation too seriously, you should know that we are not an Actual LGBT family – just your average hetero lefties. 😉

    • Virtual LGBT families and hearty allies much appreciated! No grains of salt necessary!

      The beloved and I were chatting last night about this, and to her mind, these books are for the other people in our lives as much or more so than for us. So following that line of reasoning, you’d be among our very best LGBT family-friendly/representative kid’s lit tour guides!

  5. Hey LD. As a queer interracial adoptive family, there are a couple of books we and our little one love: The Different Dragon, which displays an interracial lesbian couple with a little guy, and The Colors of Us, in which the family is ambiguous, as only one mother is shown and spoken of, and while adoption isn’t mentioned, the daughter and mother are different colours, as are all the people in the little girl’s life. In both cases, the family setup is taken for granted, and not part of the discussion.

    Also? You rock for doing this. Good on you, sister.

  6. I was all set to talk up Everywhere Babies (our favorite baby shower gift, especially as it comes in board book form) and And Tango Makes Three, but it’s already done above so I’ll just ditto those suggestions.

    I think folks on the right like to portray this stuff as “about sex and therefore not appropriate for small children”, but it’s not. I imagine you’re already including this, but I would mention to these folks how age-appropriate it is to talk about both gender identity and family make-up. Both of those are big things wee kiddoes are working on figuring out. Stuff like: What does it mean to be a boy/girl? Which one am I? How are my family members connected to me and to each other? What about my friends’ families?

    Good luck! Sounds like fun–let us know how it goes.

  7. Thank you all for your help, here in these comments and offline (directly via email & a little Twittery).

    And Shereen, the rockin’ props back at you.

    I’ve got an Excel sheet of about 58 titles of early childhood literature featuring LGBT families and a few with gender-nonconforming kids. I cross-pollinated the 4 or 5 really good, comprehensive lists I’d seen before, checked against some city library recommendations, and so on. Made sure the ALA Rainbow List winners were on it (thanks for the reminder, Dana!).

    Much more literature is written for older kids, “Young Adult” titles about gay families and kids coming out abound. But the talk is for early childhood fiction, which feels like it has been much skimpier. So I’m glad to have a list of over 50. One day soon I’d love it to be over 100. Over 100 with lots of really good titles. Good writing, good illustrations, the works. A gal can dream. That, or get crackin’.

    If I could only figure out how to manage my own files, I’d be able to call up the PDF I already put in my uploads folder so’s I could share it right away. But I’ll have to wait ’til after the chit-chat.

    Thanks again, all.

  8. Update: the talk went great; I’m working up a whole Banned Books Week extravaganza, which I’ll kick off with the gist of the talk (plus more). Thereafter I’ll spotlight one or a few titles that I (and others) think are great, within each of the basic categories of my home-spun taxonomy of LGBT Family Diversity-themed or -inclusive kid’s books.

    Thank you all for your help, offline and on!

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