Being and Seeing: diversity in children's books
This post was sponsored by Amazon as part of an Ambassador Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
“We can only be what we can see.”
While the saying is certainly true— people can only aim for the goals they think are possible— I think it’s also true that we can only be proud of what we can see. We can only feel secure and confident when our lives are reflected around us, and this is doubly true for children. So when your kids don’t have the same kind of families and lives as those they’re shown in books and movies… how do they find pride in who they are?
The good news is… there are lots of diverse books for kids of all ages! Whether you’re an LGBTQ+ family or you just want to make sure your little one sees how many different kinds of families are out there, here are some titles you should check out. This National Reading Month, I encourage you to provide your family with books that will help prepare them to be a proud ally and friend to LGBTQ+ families!
Reading on a Tablet
One of the great things about our Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is how many books the kids are able to access on it. They could basically read all day every day for months and never run out of books! And with the Amazon FreeTime parental controls, I can encourage them to get their reading done first before venturing into their gaming adventures. And just like I do when reading them paper books, we can discuss the content afterwards thanks to the Discussion Cards option within Amazon FreeTime. I’m able to see the topics they read about and even ask specific questions to encourage critical thinking with the material (and to give us something to talk about at dinner that isn’t Minecraft or the neighbor’s XBox).
Until April 3rd, 2019, Amazon is doing a giveaway! Head to this link to apply to win a Fire HD 8 Kids Edition for your family!!! I-C will randomly select winners from all program entries and Amazon will facilitate fulfillment of the winning prizes of 10 Winners.
Daddy, Papa, and Me: Leo loves this one. It’s simple enough for him to enjoy but not so simple that we get sick of reading it after two tries. A sweet story of a youngster tiring out their dads, the little one is genderless so any kid can imagine themselves in the book. The dads entertain their child by playing catch, drinking tea, and cooking. There’s also a two-moms version: Mommy, Mama, and Me!
And Tango Makes Three: Many lovely friends have sent this book along to us on different occasions throughout our kids’ lives, and it’s never quite been right for them but hopefully others will enjoy it! It’s a charming (true) story about gay penguins at the Central Park Zoo who find an abandoned egg and hatch it, successfully raising the hatchling to adulthood. The story and words are more advanced than a board book can truly sustain; Leo gets bored after around two pages. We found this to be true for the big kids as well— when they were little, it was too advanced and when they were older they weren’t interested in a board book. But again— it’s a sweet story that will work for the right little one.
Pride Colors: The board book version of Robin Stevenson’s YA non-fiction book Pride, this sweet book affirms a parent’s love for their children while sharing the story of the colors of the rainbow flag. Multiracial families, two-mom and two-dad families… there are several beautiful examples of different types of families that you can talk about with your toddler as you work your way through the book. Leo likes to copy what the people on the pages are doing— holding hands, hugging, dancing, etc. (Full disclosure: I consider Robin a personal friend.)
Anything by Flamingo Rampant Press: This micropress out of Canada produces racially diverse, feminist kids books for kids and families of all genders. (Full disclosure: I’m friends with the folks who created this company and was an original backer of their editions on Kickstarter.) Each book has a different author AND illustrator, so whether your kids are into adventure fantasies, friendship dramas, silly rhymes, or family mysteries… there is bound to be a title that works for them. Our favorites are “Love is in the Hair” and “The Newspaper Pirates” (although Hailey still claims “The Zero Dads Club” as one of her go-to’s at bedtime).
What Makes A Baby: I basically can’t say enough good things about this book. A modern take on “where do babies come from,” Cory Silverberg’s beautifully-illustrated, gender-free book on family-building is a classic that never gets old. Hailey and Riley loved this book until they were 7 and 9 years old, and we’ve used it as a foundation for many conversations about their own creation story. The authors have partnered on a second book about bodies, for older kids, called Sex is a Funny Word.
Of Thee I Sing: Okay, so this book by President Obama doesn’t talk about non-traditional family structures. But it still might be my all-time favorite kids book ever. Of Thee I Sing is essentially a love letter to President Obama’s daughters, cloaked in a history lesson. He iterates his favorite qualities about his daughters and tells a tale about someone who embodied that trait— Jackie Robinson is brave, Albert Einstein is creative. There are men and women of many races and abilities lifted up in this gorgeous book, which means our kids will always have the knowledge that anyone can be brilliant or strong or a visionary… not just those who look like them and their family. From a feminist and racial justice perspective, this book gets a 10/10 from me.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: Each page of this book features a different girl or woman who has made a difference in the world. There are stories of pirates and spies, models and ballerinas, presidents and athletes. Riley likes the fact that he can just pick it up and start reading, and Hailey likes the fact that they don’t gloss over or ignore different abilities and partnership structures. (Full disclosure: I was an original backer of this project on Kickstarter too.) Now there are TWO of these books, along with an awesome journal that we have yet to purchase but still admire greatly.
Dragon Pearl: This is a sci-fi/fantasy book featuring a girl who leaves home to save her brother. It’s based loosely on Korean fairy tales, and is part of a new venture from Rick Riordan (of Percy Jackson fame) in which he seeks out and publishes authors who are bringing global storytelling to a modern audience. This book does gender in many interesting ways. The lead character has to shapeshift into male characters, women and men are in leadership at all levels everywhere she goes, and it’s the first YA novel we’ve found that navigates gender-neutral pronouns successfully. The culture has an option where gender non-conforming people can wear a special badge that instructs others to refer to them as gender neutral— it’s explained once and then the norm is simply accepted throughout the remainder of the book. Hailey has always wondered why we have “they/them friends” but stories don’t have characters reflecting that reality. Now… they do! And we are here for it!