In Just Four Years: Changes in LGBT inclusive picture books

Almost exactly four years ago to the date, I started a very different kind of blog. It was the beginning of our adoption journey that eventually led us to the amazing human who is our daughter. For anyone who has been through the adoption process, or for anyone who has seen someone else go through the adoption process, it is grueling. For every single person involved in the process, it is a difficult one.

There is an incredible amount of uncertainty wrapped up in the process and perhaps no aspect of the process is as anxiety ridden as the waiting. It is the most uncertain kind of waiting that I have ever done. From the moment the paperwork is finished (which for us took over a year itself) you live this strange life where you could become a parent any second and you also might not become a parent for several more years. It is impossible to plan for and it is impossible to stop your heart and mind from planning.

One of the ways that my wife and I dealt with the months of uncertain waiting was with books.  We decided that each month that we were on the wait list, waiting for our little one to find us, we would allow ourselves to begin building our one-day child’s library by buying one or two books. So each month, we would head to the book store, often to our favorite bookstore, Women and Children First in Andersonville, and we would each pick out one or two books that we wanted our child to have. While nothing really helped deal with the waiting, this book buying tradition was something that we could do that kept us feeling positive and looking ahead to the future.

One of the things that we struggled with during our book buying days was trying to find books that had families that looked like ours. We wanted to make sure that right from the start, our child knew that there were other families who looked like ours and other families who looking nothing like ours and they were all families and they were all filled with love. And these LGBT inclusive picture books were hard to find.

We shopped online for books with LGBT families, our favorite bookstore was right in the heart of a very gay-friendly neighborhood, we did a whole lot of research about books with LGBT families and still these books were few and far between. There were certainly a few mighty ones and we purchased those right away.

But there were not many families that looked like ours to be found in the pages of picture books.

And that was only four years ago.

So now, fast forward to the present. It has been four years since we began our journey. We are now parents to an incredible two and a half year old. Her bedroom is filled with books.

And we live in a very different world.

Just four years since we began our journey and we have seen so many changes. First, civil unions came to our state, then gay marriage came to our state and then this past summer gay marriage spread throughout the entire country.

And when we search for books now that contain families that look like ours, there are SO many more choices. It is amazing to me and it brings me to tears to think about the books that we can now give to our child and the books that we can now put in our classrooms. In just four years, we have come so far.

Not only are there now books that are about LGBT families, but there are books that are just about families and they also include LGBT families. There are books that have LGBT characters in them for young children, middle grade children and high school children. There are picture books about children who are transgender that can help to teach our youngest children about people who once were forced to stay hidden in our world. Now we can use picture books to teach our children and our students right from the start of their lives about acceptance and tolerance and love.

And yes, we have a really long way to go. But these books give me hope.

Knowing that there are now enough books that we can really make choices about the ones we want to buy. That is amazing to me. Knowing that this kind of change is possible within a four year time span. That is amazing to me. Knowing that there is a much better chance that my child will walk into a library or a classroom and see herself reflected in the books that are in front of her. That is amazing to me.

To see some really great lists of the kinds of books that I am talking about, check out some of these resources:

Welcoming Schools Book List

San Francisco Kids’ Library List

GLBT Resources for Young Children from ALA

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