LGBTQIA+ Families in Children’s Literature
By Becca Binnie
The number of LGBTQIA+ families in the United Kingdom is increasing. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that the number of same-sex families rose by 40% in 2019 compared to the total in 2015, with 212,000 same-sex families in the UK. Furthermore, in 2015 Government data showed that every week, nine children were adopted by same-sex couples.
With these figures reflecting a more diverse population of family structures, it is important literature embraces the evolving society to encourage the deconstruction of what is considered a “normal” family, more commonly an opposite-sex married family, and celebrate all families encompassed by love. Educating a reader at a young age can encourage a more accepting generation and therefore it is important that all children learn and see the myriad of family dynamics in the literature they are consuming. Furthermore, children’s literature which is inclusive of LGBTQIA+ families means expanded representation for those children who belong to such families, this can promote acceptance, celebration and allow a child to relate to what they are reading.
There are many children’s books that depict, explain and celebrate the diverse array of family structures. Below I have recommended just a few beautiful and fun children’s books about love and family.
Firstly, The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Ros Asquith. Published in 2015 by Lincoln Children's Books, this children’s novel is like an encyclopaedia of families. It shows children how families may look different but they are all connected by love, they are all important and special in their own right. With depictions including LGBTQIA+ families and adoption, this novel promotes the idea of devotion over difference and is fun and insightful. It acts as a reminder for all, not just children, that there are many family dynamics in society, and although one may look different from another, this is not something to be feared, but embraced, included and celebrated.
Next, Uncle Bobby's Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen. Brannen writes beautifully for an audience between the ages of three and five. Published by Hodder Children’s Books in January last year, this novel engages with the theme of change whilst being inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community. When Chloe’s uncle Bobby is getting married to Jamie, Chloe fears she may not be Bobby’s favourite person anymore, as the novel celebrates Jamie and Bobby’s love for one another, Chloe and the audience learn that change does not have to be scary, that there is always more than enough love to share. Chloe learns that instead of losing an uncle, she’s gaining a new one! This heart-warming story explains how families can grow and that this is exciting as love and fun grows with it.
Sam Is My Sister by Ashley Rhodes-Courter and beautifully illustrated by MacKenzie Haley is another wonderful children’s novel. As a picture book targeted at children aged four to seven, this story explores the sibling relationship between two brothers and a transgender sister. Published in March 2021 by Global Publisher Services this book is beautifully illustrated, and the writing is accessible and heartfelt. Eldest brother Evan loves being best friends with his siblings Sam and Finn, they do everything together. Then Evan notices that Sam doesn’t look much like their brother anymore, instead Evan learns that Sam is a girl, and she wants to have long hair and wear dresses to school. The siblings' ambitions to visit the moon together remain unchanged and their bond is immovable. This heart-warming story about a family's unconditional love and support for one another is inspired by real-life and reflects how a child’s unprejudiced mind and immeasurable empathy is inspiring and something to be protected. This children’s novel is sensitive, positive and an important representation of the LGBTQIA+ community as it fights against the constructed gender expectations that are taught to children.
Finally, And Tango Makes Three is a children's book written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole it was published by Simon & Schuster Children's UK in 2005. This novel is based on a true story and proves that the only required component for starting a family is love. Roy and Silo are male penguins, and they are just like the other couples at the zoo, they bow to each other, walk together and swim together. One day the zookeeper watches as they attempt to hatch a stone and decides it is time for the pair to become parents for real. This novel is a beautiful depiction of how love and care lie the foundation for any family.
These have been some wonderfully inclusive children’s novels and there are many more that celebrate LGBTQIA+ families. It is so important to educate children so they may be understanding and inclusive but also feel empowered and able to be and to love whoever they may choose. Adults too may learn from these fun but powerful children’s novels. There are no rules when it comes to family, love is limitless and everyone should have the freedom to create their own.