For far too many years, children’s literature has lacked any kind of breadth in the field of GLBTQ literature. Though the tide is turning, it can still be difficult to find good, appropriate GLBTQ literature for kids. These books generally come in two categories – books for children in gay families and books for children who are themselves gay or questioning. Both types allow children to be comfortable in who they are and who their families are and have their lives represented in the books that they read.
The ALA has helped with The Stonewall Book Award, which has a category for children and young adults. This would be my first stop for new literature, especially for finding stories for and about GLBTQ youth. A couple of great resources for children of gay families, either for the kids themselves or the parents, is the Gay-Themed Picture Books for Children blog and Rainbow Sauce’s Children’s Books for Gay and Lesbian Parents.
For my part, I have read some excellent books lately. Much of what I remember from my childhood is Daddy’s Roommate and Heather Has Two Mommies. While these are good, seminal works, the range has expanded to fantasy literature as well as many other genres of children’s literature. Here are some of the new(er) ones that I’m loving:
- King & King and King & King & Family by Linda de Haan. Both of these express, through the folkloric tradition of kings and queens, how love can be found in different forms and families.
- And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell. Based on a true story of two male penguins who adopt an abandoned egg and raise the baby, Tango, together. I love this story of alternative family structures, especially through the easy to understand form of animals.
- My Princess Boy (A Mom’s Story About a Young Boy Who Loves to Dress Up) by Cheryl Kilodavis. One of the most endearing stories I have ever read, the faceless boy loves to dress up and he has been both mocked and accepted. It’s up to the reader to decide how to treat him and all princess boys. This is truly a story of acceptance of those who break gender norms. 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert is in a similar vein.
- Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman. Newman is probably best known for Heather Has Two Mommies. This is a fantastic board book about a lesbian couple raising their baby. It’s wonderful to have books for children so young where they can see their own family structure represented. Newman also has Daddy, Papa, and Me.
The field is expanding and different gender representations and family structures are being represented more and more. The books I listed above should be a part of any library and your children’s literature collection.
Today is the first day of Spring. Merriam-Webster defines spring as “a time or season of growth or development; specifically : the season between winter and summer comprising in the northern hemisphere usually the months of March, April, and May or as reckoned astronomically extending from the March equinox to the June solstice.” What better way to celebrate the season of growth than through children’s literature? I think that the changing colors and scenery make spring ideal for picture books, though the theme also works well in easy readers and chapter books as well. Some of my favorite (and new favorite) books about Spring (and the changing of seasons) are:
- Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasons by Il Sung Na. I only read this one recently, but the illustrations are stunning. Watch Rabbit move through the seasons as they change and Rabbit changes too.
- The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. Though this focuses on a seed as the seasons change, the real growth happens in Spring, when things like flowers come alive. Eric Carle’s distinct style is always a crowd pleaser and the lesson within about change and growth make this one a perennial favorite.
- When Will It Be Spring? by Catherine Walters. How do you get a baby bear to hibernate when he is just so excited for Spring? That’s what this story is about and children will learn about how the world changes when it becomes Spring. It also works well as part of a lesson plan on Earth Science, as this blog post explains.
- Ready for Spring by Marthe Jocelyn. Don’t know what to wear for Spring? This fun board book explains what’s weather appropriate.
- A Child’s Book of Seasons by Satomi Ichikawa. I believe this book is now out of print, but if you can get your hands on it, I highly recommend it. This was one of my most interesting picture books I had growing up and though Autumn was always my favorite part of this book, the illustrations make all seasons beautiful.
Aside from my favorite, Apples 4 the Teacher has a nice list of books about spring. This website has a fairly through list, which separates the books into age groupings, helpful for quick selection. Find something about spring and celebrate it. Baseball is starting up again, flowers are growing, trees are turning green. All of this lends itself to great read alouds and adventures that can be paired with books.
Often when we talk about children’s literature and reading, we’re talking about readers from ages 4 or 5 and up, but attention should be paid to our younger readers, or pre-readers as they are often called. These little ones get a special section of books that tell simple stories in a solid format. I’m talking about board books.
Board books are often made from cardboard, though some use other soft materials, and deal with easy concepts, like colors, numbers, or shapes, or are adapted versions of picture books. The idea is that babies can turn the pages themselves and be read to or “read” a book from a very early age. The cardboard and soft materials are used because babies are still learning about themselves and are tactile learners. This can mean that pages end up in their mouths, but this is all a part of the reading and learning process.These small size books are designed to be handled by babies and give them a head start in learning to read.
Some of the best board books have other tactile learning opportunities, such as through the classic Pat the Bunny, which uses soft fur, mirrors, and pop-ups to create an interactive reading experience for babies.
Other great board books to consider are:
- Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. This classic goodnight story is perfect as a board book as there are things to spy and a loving poem to read.
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle. Using Carle’s distinctive style, babies can learn to identify colors through repetitive language.
- Animals (Baby Touch and Feel) by Dorling Kindersley. DK publishers know a lot about teaching children and this fun board book uses different textures to teach babies about animals, which is always a fun subject for little ones.
- Round is a Mooncake: A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Thong, illustrated by Grace Lin. This book does double duty in teaching children about Chinese culture and shapes at the same time. The illustrations by Lin are beautiful and even if baby ends up chewing on them, they will get a lot out of this book.
When looking at board books, look for bright colors, conceptual ideas, and tactile learning opportunities. And don’t forget your favorite authors – many classic stories have been made into board books.