According to the National Database for statistics, the number of same-sex families is on the rise. In 2019, there were 212,000 same-sex families in the UK, an increase of 40% since 2015. Families are getting more and more diverse year by year.
Books that feature same-sex relationships can be mind and world expanding for children.
Seeing familiar characteristics in story books
We want all children to see themselves and their families in stories. There is something really validating about seeing characteristics in story books that are familiar and easy to identify with. So for a child with gay or lesbian parents, there needs to be stories that show their family unit without it being the main storyline, officially smashing up any notion that there is any such thing as a ‘normal’ family. Children’s books featuring gay or lesbian parents tell children from a young age that families come in all shapes and sizes and that their family is as imperfectly normal as anyone else’s.
Reading stories is a great starting place for encouraging interest and addressing any gaps in children’s understanding and for some children it can be the first place they encounter gay or lesbian parents. Through this they learn that their version of normal isn’t the only one. And learn to navigate around difference and the importance of championing equality. Teach a child from a young age that diversity is to be accepted and expected, then they will have a solid foundation from which to grow into kind and compassionate adults.
Crucially, stories that show that men can love men and women can love women, can give children the freedom, the words and the motivation to explore who they are, knowing they are safe to talk about whatever they discover about themselves.
Here are some brilliant books!
In this month’s 4-7 book box, we have Uncle Bobby’s Wedding. Chloe is anxious about her favourite uncle, Bobby, getting married. She fears that once he is married, Bobby will have less time to spend with her. However, Chloe learns that what this really means is that she will have not one, but two, uncles to play with. The same-sex relationship is incidental to the storyline, telling kids it’s no big deal.
Another book about gay uncles – Our Uncles the Cruncles is a twist on your usual story about sailors. Gary and Greg Cruncle are courageous, wise, and rugged, but they also have time for a little romance. This is heart-warming read that shows how traditional ‘masculine’ traits, such as physical strength, are completely compatible with being a gay man. Not only this, but it is totally ordinary to be the type of person that battles giant squids and to like to dance. The illustrations are line drawn only, apart from a pride flag on every page. The Cruncles, ‘squabble and quibble, quarrel and compete’, ‘break up, they make up.’ – this lets your child know that it is normal for relationships not to be as smooth-sailing (pun-intended) as they are made out to be in fairy tales. We asked the author, Alex Waldon, ten questions here.
The Girl with Two Dads is ideal for helping your child explain that they come from a same-sex family, or for introducing your child to a same-sex family. Pearl is excited by all that she has in common with the new girl, Matilda, at school. They like running fast and climbing trees together. When Matilda tells Pearl, ‘One Mum and Dad isn’t what every family has. I have two Dads who love each other’; Pearl shrugs and says, ‘okay, cool.’ When she goes to Matilda’s after school, Pearl discovers that having two Dads is not all that different from having a Mum and Dad.
Now for two Mums! Billy is embarrassed by how out-of-the-ordinary his family are. His Mums sing sea shanties and dance jigs. However, Billy learns to celebrate his mothers’ quirkiness when their knowledge of boats saves the day on a school trip. We asked the author, Jodie Lancet-Grant, ten questions here.
For 8-11 year olds, we recommend Sarah Hagger-Holt’s Proud of Me. Born eight days apart, Josh and Becky have two mothers, and share a sperm donor. This is a comprehensive look at what it can be like to come from a same-sex family. Josh and Becky face ignorance about their family set-up. Before they started school, Becky and Josh did not know that the term ‘gay’ could be used as one of abuse. Both children dread the question, ‘Yeah but which one’s your real mum?’, as they feel biology does not define their connection to their mothers. The story tracks Josh’s frustrated search for his sperm donor, something Becky is less interested in. This demonstrates how children can have very different reactions to the same circumstances.
This book illustrates the diversity of our population beautifully. Becky’s best friend Archie is gay and is coping with his parent’s recent separation. Becky forms a friendship with a girl from a different socioeconomic background. The children’s Jewish heritage is a celebrated part of their identity. Overall, the warmth and care in Becky and Josh’s family is undeniable. This is an encouraging, empathetic read that will aid all children into thinking about what it must be like to be from a different family set-up. Buy that one here.
It is vital to create a welcoming environment for children to explore their feelings about same-sex relationships. Not only because it is inevitable that they will encounter gay people in their lives – but also because you want your children to know that you will have their back, whoever they fall in love with.