For many decades, the concept of “family” in children’s books has been narrowly represented.
As society becomes more accepting of the multiplicity of family structures, more children’s books have started to represent lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) characters. These titles teach children that family isn’t about gender or sexuality, but about the people who love and raise you.
Look to the following books to expand your child’s understanding of “parents” and “family”:
1. Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman
First released in 1989, this quintessential book offers the story of Heather, who has two of everything — including mommies. The book endured much criticism, but at over 25 years old, it is still a must-have for the bookshelf.
2. Zak's Safari: A Story about Donor-Conceived Kids of Two-Mom Families by Christy Tyner
Zak introduces readers to his family, starting with an age-appropriate exploration of reproduction (including information about genes, eggs, sperms, and sperm donors) and ending with a celebration of what his two-mom family is like. You can even read the book for free here!
3. Daddy, Papa, and Me and 4. Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman
From the author of “Heather Has Two Mommies,” these two books show loving families with two parents of the same gender. Both books explore the lives of these families in verse, showing them inside and outside their home, as the parents play with and care for their young children. I love books that simply tell the stories of the families instead of pointing them out as different. A great set to show any child that families come in all kinds of configurations.
5. King and King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland
This fairytale disrupts the common trope of boy meets girl and they live happily every after in a heteronormative world. The young prince decides he is much more interested in the prospective bride's brother than he is in the bride. And the new kings live happily ever after! There’s even a sequel, King and King and Family.
6. The Different Dragon by Jennifer Bryan
In this story, Noah and his two moms decide to create a new bedtime story about a dragon who is tired of having to act fierce all the time. The fact that the protagonist has two mothers is not emphasized; it’s simply what the boy is used to. The story-within-the story teaches young readers to question gender expectations that require boys to act tough.
7. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
This is the true story of Roy and Silo, two male penguins from the Central Park Zoo that yearn to have a baby penguin. When a zookeeper gives the couple an egg to care for, Roy and Silo are happy to welcome baby Tango into their family. The book is even better with the new audiobook version narrated by Neil Patrick Harris!
8. In Our Mothers' House by Patricia Polacco
This book also represents a family with two mothers, but is different from others within the genre because it doesn’t only feature characters who are white. The story focuses on a young girl and her multiethnic family, and sets a good example for books that work to ensure that all cultures and ethnicities are represented — so our children can learn that everyone matters.
9. A Tale of Two Mommies and 10. A Tale of Two Daddies by Vanita Oelschlager
Just as the titles suggest, these books show a young child growing up in a family with two mommies or daddies. On the beach and the playground, the adopted children answer other children's questions — in rhyme — about what it is like to grow up with two parents who are the same gender.
11. The Family Book by Todd Parr
Every time I read a Parr book to my daughter, I reflect on his genius of making books that look like children’s art. What a wonderful way to connect with kids! This book uses colorful drawings to show that all families matter and no two families really look alike. It’s a fun read to teach kids that there is no "right" way to have a family.
More can be accomplished in this genre as our culture moves toward accepting more types of family configurations. I hope in a few years there are more books that reflect the changes in our society — and I sure hope to find more books with people of color as protagonists so my daughter can see the world reflected back at her accurately.
Looking for more books to spark important conversations? Check out: 14 Picture Books that Counteract Gender Stereotypes and 7 Picture Books that Illustrate the Complexity of Diversity.