Tag Archives: children’s books

Teaching Kids About the Diversity of Families, Gender Identities and Sexual Orientations

Last week The Carillon, the southeastern Manitoba newspaper where I work as a columnist,  reported the Hanover School Board had said no to a request from a parent to include discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation in younger grades. The parent voiced her concerns because her child was being bullied at school for having two mothers. She proposed that more open discussions in younger grades about things like families with same sex marriage partners, might help change the attitudes that led to the bullying. The school board decided to continue their policy of saving such discussions for high school classrooms where they are part of the mandated provincial curriculum.

This means parents in the school division who want their young children to be accepting of a diversity of family arrangements, gender identities and lifestyle choices, will need to teach their kids those values at home. Luckily there are plenty of great books that can act as helpful resources for parents.

The Pilgrims is a group of people in my church who meet regularly to explore how our faith community can respond supportively to the spiritual pilgrimage of LGBTQ people. Since I am our church librarian a group member approached me recently wondering if I might be open to having them donate some books for children to the church library. These were stories that introduced the idea that all people are unique and make different life style choices, and that all families are unique and some include two mothers or two fathers. I said I would be happy to have these books in our church library. The request sent me off on a search of my own and here are some good books I found that parents of young children might want to consider.

 morris and the tangerine dressMorris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino is about a little boy who loves to wear a dress from the classroom’s dress up box. His friends say he isn’t welcome in the space ship they are building because astronauts don’t wear dresses.

TangopenguinAnd Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell is a true story about a pair of male penguins in the Central Park Zoo who adopt an unwanted baby penguin and provide a loving caring family for it.

donovan's big dayDonovan’s Big Day by Leslea Newman captures the joy and excitement of a family wedding through the eyes of a boy who is acting as the ring bearer for his two mothers.

great big book of familiesThe Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman has colorful illustrations that depict every kind of family; single parent, two parent, blended, multi-cultural, multi-racial and families headed by same sex couples and grandparents.

annie's plaid shirtAnnie’s Plaid Shirt
by Stacy Davids and Rachael Balsaitis is about a girl who loves her plaid shirt and is upset when her mother says she can’t wear it to her uncle’s wedding and must wear a dress instead.

These are just a few of the books available for young children. There are also many well-written novels for upper elementary and junior high kids that address gender identity, life style choice and same -sex marriage in thoughtful ways.

In a Carillon editorial last week the Hanover School Division was characterized as “doing nothing to advance a more compassionate response to discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity.” Parents however can help their children have just such a compassionate response by sharing with them some of the great books for kids that celebrate and explain diversity.

Other posts……

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Why Adults Are Reading Teen Fiction

Can Spirituality and Sexuality Dance Together

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Perfect for Pre-Schoolers

 “Why don’t you do a column about books for pre-school children?” My friend Marilyn Rempel was responding to my annual newspaper column about novels perfect for summer reading. She suggested I create a list of recommended read aloud books for the pre- kindergarten crowd. What a great idea! 

 peek a who Just a few weeks ago I went to McNally Robinson Bookstore to buy Peek A Who by Nina Laden for a baby shower gift. On each page in the book there is a question. Who? Then on the next page you get the answer. It might be a ghost who boos, a cow that moos or a train that choo- choos. On the last page the answer to the question is YOU and a mirror so children can see themselves. It has been my experience that you can read Peek A Who dozens of times to a one year old and they will laugh out loud without fail when you reach the last page and they see themselves in the mirror.

   weregoingonabearhuntcoverGoing on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen has watercolor illustrations by Helen Oxenbury. It’s about a family going on a walk to look for a bear. The same phrases repeat themselves over and over in an almost hypnotic way and finding the bear is SO SCARY! There is a little dog on every page and children love looking for him. I’ve adapted this book for a Going On A Polar Bear Hunt activity when I’m guiding children through the Inuit exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It’s lots of fun!

      take me out to the ball game Canadian illustrator Maryann Kovalski has done a brilliant job of illustrating the song Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Jenny and Joanna get to go to a Yankees ball game with their enthusiastic and vivacious grandmother who makes sure her granddaughters have an unforgettable experience at the ball park. 

henri's walk to parisHenri’s Walk to Paris by Lenore Klein was first published in 1962. It’s a story about a little boy who learns just how special home can be when he sets out on a journey to the big city. The book’s unique illustrations are by Saul Bass an American design great. He worked with filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese and Stanley Kubrick. They say a good children’s book will target and engage both adults and children. Henri’s Walk to Paris does just that.

Barbara Reid is a Canadian illustrator who works exclusively in colorful clay. Children and adults enjoy finding all the marvelous little details in her plasticine masterpieces. the new baby calfI especially love her New Baby Calf based on the poem Buttercup the Cow by Edith Newlen Chase. I recited the poem Buttercup the Cow  at the Steinbach Festival when I was in grade three so it holds special memories. have you seen birdsNot to be missed are Reid’s Book of Nursery Rhymes and  Have You Seen Birds with  hundreds of birds all meticulously recreated. GIFTS-PBK-Eng-coverMy favorite Reid book is called Gifts. The text by Jo Ellen Bogart describes a Grandma who travels the world. As she shares her experiences with her grandchild in various ways she impacts future generations of her family.

There are so many great books for toddlers. As the school year begins and the weather cools, day care providers, nursery school teachers and parents are no doubt diving into their own favorites with the children they love and teach. What are your favorites?

Other posts about children’s books……..

Maurice Sendak

Children’s Christmas Books- Ten Classics 

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