Avid readers know just how powerful stories can be: Through them, children have the opportunity to experience our wonderfully diverse world in entirely new ways, and learn about the many different ways others feel — including who they love and what gender they identify with.
It’s exactly why giving our kids access to books that introduce LGBTQIA characters and their unique storylines is so important. These books show kids who are going through similar experiences that they’re not alone, and give children who aren’t the chance to better understand those who are. (The LGBTQIA acronym includes initials for “intersex” and “asexual” or “allied”; allies are those who support the community.)
“The ability for a child to see themselves, a peer, or a family member reflected in a book is priceless,” says Kieran Slattery, a fifth-grade teacher who identifies as a queer transgender man in western Massachusetts. “For some, it can be truly life-changing. It can mean the difference between feeling devastatingly alone to feeling like there’s a place for them in the world.”
Ace Schwarz, a seventh-grade teacher who identifies as nonbinary in Williamsport, Marlyand, and the 2019 Educator of the Year for GLSEN (a national education organization that aims to create safe schools for LGBTQIA students), discovered what an impact these diverse characters have when they read Gracefully Grayson, a book about a transgender teen, to their class.
“While all of my students were familiar with the term ‘transgender,’ they had no personal experience with trans narratives,” says Schwarz. “I was in awe at the amount of empathy my kids felt when [the main character] Grayson struggled with her family. Identifying as transgender was just one part of her story, albeit a major part, and they realized that they had so much more in common with her than they did differences.”
LGBTQIA books may also encourage kids to think critically about the norms they see in the world around them. “Children are already receiving daily messages about gender and sexuality, so it is imperative that we ensure the messages they receive reflect the whole spectrum of human possibility,” says Katy Butler, a second-grade teacher who identifies as queer in San Francisco.
Check out these 10 incredible books selected specifically by Scholastic editors to help your child Read With Pride this summer. They not only show the unique and formative experiences LGBTQIA characters face, but the many other things that make them who they are — things that all children will relate to, regardless of how they identify.