Representation of LGBTQ+ Families in Children’s Literature
By Becca Binnie
Modern Britain is home to an increasingly diverse array of family structures. Many school children in the UK have parents, family members and friends who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Representation of all forms of family, including LGBTQ+, in literature, will aid the effort to teach children that their families and friends are as accepted and valued as everyone else’s.
There are many wonderful children’s books that embrace and celebrate LGBTQ+ families. The following are just a handful of the widely recommended LGBTQ+ books intended for primary school children.
Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow by author Benjamin Dean and illustrator Sandhya Prabhat. This book targets an audience of children aged eight-years-old and older. The story sees Archie Albright learn to embrace the changing nature of his family. After his parents are at odds with each other, he learns that his father is gay. Archie goes on a journey to explore love, friendship and family dynamics.
All You Need Is Love: Celebrating Families of All Shapes and Sizes written by Shanni Collins is recommended for children between three and eight-years-old. The novel promotes diversity with each page dedicated to a different family type.
Sarah Hagger-Holt’s Proud of Me is perfect for children between the ages of nine and twelve-years-old. The book follows a set of twins with two mums and a donor dad. They both go on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance, learning to open up to those closest to them.
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno is recommended for children five to eight-years-old. The work is a moving and empowering true story about the first openly gay elected official in California. The story is beautifully illustrated, as well as incredibly informative. Although this novel is not strictly about families, it is an educational story told in a child-friendly way that promotes the notion that LGTBQ+ families should be celebrated and treated with respect, just like traditional family dynamics.
Sarah Savage’s She’s My Dad!, with illustrations by Joules Garcia, is recommended for children between the ages of three and seven-years-old. Six-year-old Mini tells the story of her family, made up of her and her transgender dad. It is a heart-warming, inclusive story working to normalise transgender parents. The story is written in a way that allows children to relate or connect to characters, whilst also learning about non-traditional family structures.
It is important children have access to LGBTQ+ inclusive literature, like the books above, at home as well as in school. However, in a school environment, children are meeting an array of other children with different backgrounds and families. It is vital that children see themselves represented in the books displayed around school, but also that children are exposed to a great number of different family structures. This allows them to learn about the diverse reality of modern society.
I have focused on the representation of LGBTQ+ families in children’s literature because, traditionally, sex education in the UK has been centred around heterosexual relationships. Recently the UK government changed the specifications regarding the teaching of sex and relationships education. Now schools are encouraged to include a wider scope of family dynamics in the umbrella of relationships and sex education.
The UK government updated the statutory guidance for primary-level relationships education in 2020. It states that by the end of primary school, children should know that stable, caring relationships are at the heart of a family and may come in different forms. The goal is to teach children about family structures, placing no stigmatisation on differences. Matters of family should be discussed sensitively with the pupils in mind; lessons should promote equality and respect towards all positive relationships in every child’s life.
LGBTQ+ rights organisation Stonewall celebrated the step towards inclusivity and discussed how many schools already teach LGBTQ+ inclusive sex and relationships education lessons. With the updated government guidance, schools are encouraged to talk more about LGBTQ+ relationships. Whilst discussing the positive changes to the school curriculum, Stonewall released a helpful, child-friendly book recommendation list. It is highly informative and can be found on their website.
‘We believe that children deserve to learn about a world which reflects the one in which they are growing up.’ - Stonewall 2019
Literature is an important part of the education system, especially in primary schools, many schools still have structures in place to ensure children read at least three times a week. Inclusive and diverse books, made easily accessible within school libraries, aid children’s ability to learn and see themselves in the fun fiction or non-fiction that they are reading.
With a more LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum, children can relate, empathise and understand the importance and necessity of difference in order to see how everyone deserves a loving family, even if it is unlike their familiarity.