Diverse Kids’ Books: Why We Do What We Do
Recently, we came across a tweet that made us stop and think about why we do what we do. Why diverse kids’ books matter. Why they’re worth filling our bookshelves. And what diverse kids’ books mean to their readers.
Adam Podowitz-Thomas, a proud Queer Dad, shared a sweet story about finding a book that represented his family set-up. Although Adam’s daughter had grown up in a two-dad family, in all the books she read at her local day-care, there was only ever, “Mummy”, “Daddy” and “Baby”. His daughter was not represented in kids’ books.
So, Adam and his partner took it upon themselves to find a book featuring a two-dad family. They found, And Tango Makes Three, Adam’s daughter came to recognise herself in the story, ‘She turns to us, with the biggest, widest eyes I have ever seen, turns back to the penguins and says, questioning, ‘Daddy, Papa, Edie?’ Edie went on to refer to herself as Tango for months after reading.
Adam’s story is a truly heart-warming read. It shows the importance of feeling seen. All children deserve to see themselves in storybooks. All family set-ups belong in storybooks. Whether that be a single-parent family, a blended family, a two-mums or two-dads family. Nuclear families should not be treated as possessing a sacred level of ‘normality’. Family is about being bound by care and love for one another – that is far more crucial than each child having one mum and one dad who are in monogamous happy marriage until the day they die. And that’s why diverse kids’ books need to be on our shelves.
Penguins in Love: Roy and Silo
In, And Tango Makes Three, the narrator details all the families at the zoo, from the humans to the monkeys. In the penguin enclosure, two male penguins, Roy and Silo, love each other. Just like the male and female penguin couples, they walk, swim, and wake together. However, they see that the Mama penguins produce an egg in the female-male couples and wish that they could do the same. The groundskeeper, who knew that Roy and Silo were in love, gave them an egg that needed caring for. When the egg hatches, Tango is born: Roy and Silo are fathers. The continued message of this book is that the care and love is the same, regardless of sex.
‘Roy and Silo wound their necks around each other’
Real-life Same-Sex Penguins in Love
And Tango Makes Three was written in 2005. It is based on the real-life story of penguins of the same name in New York City’s central park zoo in 1998. Groundskeepers noticed two male penguins engaging in mating rituals, and then, attempting to hatch a rock. So, Roy and Silo were given an egg from a couple that had previously struggled to hatch two eggs at once. Their daughter, Tango, went on to form a bond with another female penguin. The practice of giving an egg to a same-sex penguin couple has been practiced since. And Tango Makes Three has faced repeated bans in America. Diverse kids’ books have come a long way since 2005. We are proud to have shared such a wide and varied collection of books featuring same-sex couples. By no means is representation “complete” but And Tango Makes Three at least no longer stands alone.
Three of Our Favourite Books Featuring Same-sex Relationships:
- My Mums Love Me by Anna Membrino & Hwang Ruiz
- The Pirate Mums by Jodie Lancet-Grant and Lydia Corry
- Granddad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate
- Read our blog post on books featuring same-sex relationships here.
All Representation Matters…
It is not just LGBTQIA+ representation that matters. We’re out here hand-selecting books by black authors and illustrators. Books that shatter stereotypical gender roles. Books that disrupt the conventional representation of disability.
We do this to give kids an inner glow. A feeling of: that’s me. That’s my family. Those are my parents. That’s my sister. That is what we wear and eat in my house.
Every kid should get to feel that way.
Even if a book does not represent your child, it is still important to read it to them, to open their eyes to just how diverse families really can be.
That’s what we are here for. Populating shelves with diverse kids’ books.