Written by Jess Venable-Novak, Family Engagement Manager at Family Equality
When it comes to children’s books and gender identity, representation is fairly slim. Most books still flaunt the mom-and-dad narrative, and even those with LGBTQ+ parents are typically limited to two-mom and two-dad families. As a nonbinary stepparent, this conundrum has always been particularly anxiety-inducing.
Reading before bedtime has been an immovable ritual in our house for as long as we can remember. Regardless of how late we stay up and how overtired my daughter is, we always close our night with a book, even if it’s only for a few pages. Because of this, I have always been very aware of the lack of families that look like ours. And, like any parent, this caused me to worry. If she didn’t see our family reflected in literature would she still see our family as valid? Beautiful? Worthy of being the main characters?
This fear was compounded by the fact that we live in a rural place with little-to-no other queer families. If our daughter looked at the world around her and at the books on her bookshelf, she would see that our sweet little family was an only. There were no mirrors for her in our everyday life. This immediately sent me into problem-solver mode. While the hours I spent on google & bookstore websites searching for queer families in picture books could have been a full-time job, it’s enabled me to create an at-home library of books that reflect what our family looks like. As Nonbinary Parents Day approaches, I wanted to share some of our family’s favorites with you!
Written by Gayle Pitman
Illustrated by: Violet Tobacco
This book is one of my family’s favorites because it’s all about having a nonbinary parent! The story is told from the perspective of the child, who is eager to share that their Maddy is “neither a boy nor a girl.” As the child takes us through the day-to-day of their lives, they highlight many other things that are “in-between” like sporks, hazel eyes, and sunrises. The final page is a tear-jerker, proclaiming, “Some of the best things in the world are not one thing or the other, but in between, and kind of both, and something entirely fantastically their own.” This book not only allowed our family to feel seen, but is also a great way to introduce nonbinary identity to children & comes with notes & resources in the back for readers.
Written by Koja & Angel Adeyoha
Illustrated by Holly McGillis
This book is truly magnificent, featuring both a two-spirit child & a two-spirit elder and highlighting the power of community. The story is focused on the experience of a youth who is not comfortable with the gendered regalia for dancing at pow wow. Her Auntie employs the help of a two-spirit elder in the community, paving the way for an intergenerational bond.
The Zero Dads Club
Written by Angel Adeyoha
Illustrated by Aubrey Williams
This story is about youth empowerment, which I love. Being faced with a father’s day craft at school, a group of students creates a club for themselves because their families don’t include dads. This book introduces readers to so many different family structures with different kinds of parents & caregivers, including a trans nonbinary adult that goes by BaBa! Flamingo Rampant never disappoints with representation that truly encapsulates our community. From gender identity, race and ability- this book is no exception.
Plenty of Hugs
Written by Fran Manushkin
Illustrated by Kate Alizadeh
While this book does not explicitly mention a nonbinary parent, the queer adults are left genderless which is a win in and of itself! It’s simple to discuss this book with your child and be explicit about how readers don’t know the gender or parent-names of the adults because we aren’t told them. And, there’s no way to know unless we’re told! Written for younger kiddos, this takes readers on a journey through a day, naming the different things the family encounters through rhyming prose. This book is cheerful and lovely with statements like “There’s a buzz for each bug, and a breeze for each tree, and plenty of hugs for you and me.”
Looking for more inclusive books?
Family Equality’s Book Nook is a comprehensive list of the best LGBTQ+ books for the whole family! Whether you’re searching for your child’s first picture book or a young adult novel that your tween will devour, Family Equality’s Book Nook can help you find new favorites that represent diverse families in a loving and respectful way. Click here to learn more.