Some people mistakenly assume that teaching English is just about language grammar and vocabulary. However, as a teacher, you also act as a role model for your students. They look up to you, learn about the world from you and your material. That is why it is so important to be mindful of what books you use in your class and what messages these books convey. So we decided to make a handy list for you of LGBTQ+ books that bring such a heavy but important topic, like sexuality and gender identity, through whimsical stories and illustrations. We understand that sometimes as a teacher, you can feel overwhelmed by the pressure that is on you. That is why we picked books easily read by kids and adults. They simplify the concepts and actually can serve as a conversation starter in your class.
This Day in June – Gayle E. Pitman (Age 4+)
A book invites the reader to experience the day when we are all united in celebrating pride. You become a participant in the parade and get introduced to many marvellous people depicted in whimsical and unique illustrations. This book is an excellent starting point for a conversation about acceptance and equality because it is filled with facts about LGBTQ history and culture. Moreover, if you feel nervous and want some guidance in talking about it with kids, there is a helpful “Note to Parents and Caregivers” with recommendations on how to do it.
My Two Moms and Me – Michael Joosten (Age 4+)
Fashion, humour, and an accurate depiction of any family life create a must-have book. The author writes the book as a narration of a young kid with two moms talking about their daily routine. Through a single story and illustrations of different families with two moms, the book highlights the underlying similarity between families, thus smoothly teaching any reader to see alikeness and not differences. This book also has a companion – “My Two Dads and Me.” Even though we don’t mention it here, we highly recommend reading it as well.
Families, Families, Families! – Suzanne Lang and Max Lang (Age 4+)
There is no definition for the family. It may consist of a single parent, two moms, a squared dog, or a pink grandfather. Specifically, these kinds of families are represented on the walls of the rusty house in Suzanne and Max Langs’ book. The authors draw parallels between reality and the animal world by transforming people into differently shaped creatures. Size and shape do not matter there. There is just an identical underlying all-consuming love between family members and wonderful rhyme flowing through the book.
Daddy, Papa, and Me – Leslea Newman (Age 4+)
It is another fun depiction of love and family given to us. This time, an author chose a loving family of two dads and their happy toddler. Readers share one day with this family. They laugh with a baby while playing hide-and-seek, swim in the bubble bath and are tucked to sleep by two Papas. It is a short book that again educates kids on appreciating the difference instead of weaponizing them.
Pink is for Boys – Robb Pearlman and Eda Kaban (Age 4+)
Each of your students has most likely heard the phrase, “You cannot do it; it is not boyish/girly enough for you.” This book is an excellent introduction to teaching students to defy phrases like that and protect their identity. The book’s goal is to challenge binary stereotypes while showing that you can do anything. You CAN wear: pink, blue, green, or even purple with a mix of red and yellow dots with stripes. The requirement to do all of it is to be yourself. With simple text and cute illustrations, the authors reinforce the idea of non-binary by attempting to form a non-colour-coded world. It is not just a kid’s book. Adults, too, can find themselves hidden on the pages within letters. After all, people often tell us not to do something because we are [ fill in the blank].
Drama – Raina Telgemeier (Age 10+)
For older kids, we suggest a graphic novel, “Drama.” It is about drama on stage and behind the scenes. A middle-school girl loves theatre and becomes a set designer for the drama department. There she faces friendship, misunderstanding, more drama, and love. It’s a great piece of work because it does not focus on emphasizing the sexuality of characters. Instead, readers very naturally find out about different gender identities through the girl’s adventures. The book teaches perceiving the LGBTQ+ community as part of everyday life, as normality, not an exception.
Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli (Age 14+)
We could not talk about LGBTQ+ characters and not mention the life of Simon. A Netflix featured book talks about the school life of a closeted sixteen years old boy who, due to misfortune, has to force himself to come out before his identity is exposed. It features the struggles of the teenager trying to balance out friendships, the pressure of society, stereotypes, and love. With empathy, the author lets the reader watch how Simon attempts to define who he is and fights for his freedom. It is a fantastic book because, as a teacher, you can start many discussions with your students about what they would do if they were in Simon’s shoes or the shoes of his friends. There are so many different issues brought up in the book about acceptance, friendship, and misgendering that you will have a blast talking about it with your kids.
It is important to talk with your students about gender identity and sexuality. Even if they are too young to have a serious conversation about it, you can still teach them about equality through the books. By reading, they can broaden their worldview and understanding of others, defining how the kid will turn out in the future. Conversations like that don’t have to be serious and boring. They can be fun with a picture book or a smartly written, humorous story. In any case, this conversation should happen; at the end of the day, there are future bright minds in your classes, and you decide what the future will be.
Read more: Top Resources for LGBTQ+ TEFL Teachers