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Young children are little sponges, taking up whatever information we give them. The things we share with them as parents will shape their lives and their beliefs.
If we want them to believe in acceptance, tolerance, and compassion for others, we need to share stories that feature the growing diversity of family structures, especially families that don’t conform to traditional gender roles.
Today we’ve hand-selected our favorite picture books about different families with a special focus on LGBTQIA+ families!
Isn’t It Too Early To Be Talking About Gender And Sexuality? Will They Even Understand?
It might shock you to learn that multiple studies show children as young as four are already forming biased opinions about race, gender, and their role in society.
If you’re looking to shape your child’s opinions about diverse children and families, particularly when it comes to race or gender, it’s best to start before they hit preschool.
Books About Different Families Including Historical Or Political Figures And Events
You might notice only a few books on this list talk explicitly about historical events or prominent LGBTQIA+ figures.
While there is value in sharing books about the history of the LGBTQIA+ rights movement with older kids, the primary goal of this list is simply to normalize queer families and their experiences.
The type of books that resonate the most with my 3-year-old are the fun and heartwarming stories that just happen to include diverse families. No adult commentary necessary.
These are the books you read over and over again, at bedtime, in the car, or at the park. The books your kids memorize and internalize.
How will Books About Different Families Help My Child Become More Accepting of Others?
When it comes to teaching tolerance in young kids, it’s all about showing, not telling.
Exposing children to new kinds of people without commentary is a strategy borrowed from Christia Spears Brown’s book Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue.
Focusing on gender, Brown advises parents to avoid pointing out gender as much as possible at an age when young children are learning how the world works.
She writes, ”If children see a difference, they look to the experts in the world (us grown-ups) to see whether the difference is important or not…”
Brown makes the case that parents can eliminate bias in their children by providing media (books, music, movies, etc.) without gender stereotypes, traditional gender roles, and unnecessary segregation by gender.
Why We Love Books About Different Families Especially For Young Children
Keeping Brown’s strategy in mind, we replace the books in our home that have outdated ideas about gender and family roles with books that showcase the beautiful, colorful spectrum of family structures.
By doing so, our children understand from a young age that diversity exists. More importantly, they understand that diversity is a normal part of the human experience. Not something to be feared or eliminated.
In addition, when we demonstrate a neutral attitude toward things like gender, race, body weight, etc, we are telling our kids “that’s not the most important thing about this person.”
Can you imagine a world where all children learn to look beneath the surface of each other’s differences and see instead an individual’s special gifts and personality?
That’s where I want to be, and these books are a great start.
Books About Different Families: Exploring Diversity In Family Structures
The following books are a general introduction to family diversity, from gay and lesbian parents to child-free couples. There’s a little bit of everything!
The Family Book is full of author Todd Parr’s signature bright colors and bold illustrations. His writing is short and sweet to hold the attention of even the youngest child.
Available as a board book, The Family Book is a fantastic introduction to the ways families are different (and also the same!).
A perfect gift for a brand-new baby.
At first glance, One Family is a book about counting from one to ten, but as the story progresses, a beautiful theme emerges.
We see busy families of all races, genders, and configurations.
The author invites readers to look first at their individual differences but then to remember they are all parts of a wonderful whole. A family.
With simple words and vivid, whimsical illustrations, this book demonstrates the everyday ways our families show they care.
You’ll find a range of diverse families with more than a few gender-neutral characters throughout.
A rare find among children’s books!
The Great Big Book has been popular among parents for over ten years. It’s a comprehensive look at families unequaled among children’s literature.
I appreciate that the author does not shy away from highlighting socioeconomic, cultural, and even personal differences in families.
It’s a beautiful, realistic perspective for children who are ready for a deeper dive into family diversity.
Through a series of family portraits, we see what different families look like in the animal kingdom. As an animal lover, I find this book adorable and hilarious!
With rhyming words and visual jokes that parents will love, I would happily read this book over and over.
In All Are Welcome, we follow an African American child and her family throughout a single school year. She learns, plays, meets friends from across the globe, shares her family culture, and learns about other families in the process.
This is one of my toddler’s favorite books, and it has shaped his ideas about school life in a positive way.
I can’t recommend this one enough.
Books About Different Families: Families with Two Moms
In this section, you’ll find a collection of stories involving families with two moms. We’ve packed this list with stories of adventure, mischief, excitement, and double the mom love.
All Moms is a celebration of mothers and the countless ways their personalities and interests shape a child’s life. The illustrations are full of rich detail, and I appreciate the big shout-out to single-parent families.
I also love the variety of clothing, hairstyles, and jewelry worn by the mothers in this book. There’s enormous diversity of skin color, body size, and gender expression, too.
It’s got it all!
Young Billy desperately wants to lead a normal life like the rest of his friends, but with two Pirates for parents, a pet parrot, and a house that could sail the seven seas, it’s tough to fit in.
This book features an example of a lesbian interracial marriage, but it’s not the focus. The characters are far too busy hoisting the mainsail and saving the day.
A book for any pirate fan!
Zak’s two mothers longed for a baby, so they decided to make one through a donor. With childlike curiosity, Zak explores the special way he came into the world.
This is an ideal book for families with IVF or donor-conceived children interested in their origin story.
It’s a warm celebration of family love.
Some families don’t have children at all! The child-free couple in this book has a sassy dog named Rumplepimple and one bossy cat.
Written from the perspective of Rumplepimple, dog owners will relate to the story’s protagonist who tries to be a good dog but ends up wreaking havoc at the local supermarket.
A little girl notices some objects have gone missing around her home and suspects a gremlin. She enlists her Great Dane to help catch it over the course of one very suspenseful night.
The musical rhymes make this a delightful book to read out loud. It’s also an excellent book for preschoolers or early readers!
Written in the style of ‘Twas’ the Night Before Christmas, this book follows a family – two moms and two kids – preparing for the first day of a pride festival.
This book introduces to children the pride symbol – a rainbow flag – and also touches on the events of the Stonewall Inn uprising in an age-appropriate way.
It’s a perfect conversation starter for older toddlers and up!
Books About Different Families: Families with Two Dads
This section features households with two dads. It’s full of hope and heartwarming family moments. You’ll also find several books to start a conversation about the legalization of gay marriage and its impact on families in the U.S.
A little girl visits her grandpa’s home and learns about how her Grandad and Grandpa became a family. Grandad’s camper is an origin story and a celebration of everyday moments, filled with dreamy illustrations.
The book tenderly captures the experiences of falling in love, traveling through life together, and building a family.
It’s a personal favorite!
As a young girl prepares for her aunt’s wedding, she feels conflicted. She feels excitement for her aunt but also deep sadness for her two fathers who cannot be legally married.
This book launched mere months before same-sex marriage legalization in America.
It’s an excellent segway into some basic conversations around voting and how people can create positive change.
When two male penguins fall in love and decide to start a family of their own, zookeepers give them their very own egg to hatch. The penguins, as illustrated by artist Henry Cole, are realistic and full of expression.
Tango Makes Three is a true story based on two chinstrap penguins at NYC’s Central Park Zoo.
It’s one of the most banned books in the 2000s and a great way to introduce even the youngest child to family diversity.
There’s a mother’s day celebration at school and Stella has a problem. She’s supposed to bring her mother to the party, but she only has two dads! It’s a unique challenge faced by queer parenting families.
Stella Brings The Family explores the definition of motherhood and mothering in a family without a capital “M” Mommy.
We see how fathers, extended family, and friends also create stability and sanctuary for children.
In Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, a young girl worries her relationship with her beloved uncle will change when he marries his long-time boyfriend. Will they still go on adventures together? Will they still be close friends?
In this cheerful tale, we see the main character’s worries turn to excitement as she discovers the joy of bringing a new person into the family.
Interesting fact: This book was originally illustrated with guinea pigs instead of people. Following the legalization of gay marriage, the author decided to reissue the book with human characters!
When disaster strikes on Christmas Day, it’s up to the main character’s two dads and grandma to save Christmas for a child in need.
The illustrator packed each page to the brim with Christmas imagery, and despite the nighttime setting, the pages appear so vibrant they are almost glowing.
A perfect stocking stuffer for little ones!
It’s time to tidy up before Grandma comes home, and a motley crew of pets, kids, and fathers get to work cleaning. Unfortunately, thanks to a sneaky cat who clearly does not want a bath, a simple tidy-up turns into a scrambled mess.
Bathe the Cat is a hilarious story featuring an African American gay couple with two little ones.
It fully expresses the chaos of family life with young children.
Books About Different Families: Families with Transgender Parents + Kids
The following books chronicle the lives of gender-non-conforming kids and adults. Transgender families are incredibly diverse and misunderstood by the general public. We need books like these now more than ever!
This is a simple story about two friends who have different interests – one likes trucks and one likes dolls. The two children are both presented as boys in the book, but their gender is never identified.
Through patience and persistence, they discover their differences can bring a new energy and creativity to their play.
And they also learn some interests are universal – like ice cream!
A child named Julián longs to be a mermaid in the city’s seaside Merpeople parade, but he’s not sure his Abuela (his grandmother) will approve. It’s a tale of unconditional love and acceptance across generations.
The illustrations are the best part of this incredible book. You can almost feel the spray of a fire hydrant or see the bouncing of leaves in Julián’s hair.
It’s a work of art.
Calvin offers a glimpse into a world where transgender children are fully supported in every way by their parents, their extended family, and their community. Calvin comes out to his parents as transgender, and they respond in celebration and understanding.
While it is not the reality for most transgender children, it is certainly a world we can all strive to achieve.
An aspirational story full of diversity!
If talking with your child about using pronouns like they/them is way outside your wheelhouse, this book is a fantastic resource! I’d recommend this for preschool age and up as it may require some discussion.
A friend and queer advocate friend once suggested I help my son practice using different pronouns by giving his stuffed animals their own unique pronouns. It’s been a low-key way to bring up gender identity in our cis-gendered household.
Give it a try!
Pheonix Goes to School shares the real experiences of a California mother and her transgender daughter starting school for the first time. Phoenix is a brave, active little girl who is concerned about bullying when she arrives at her classroom wearing a dress.
I love that this book includes a list of kid-friendly discussion questions at the end. I wish every children’s book had this. Brilliant!
6. She’s My Dad! (Or He’s My Mom!) By Sarah Savage
We couldn’t complete this list without a book on transgender parenting. (We love our queer moms and bonus moms at Undefining Motherhood!).
These books follow a child’s experience after one parent transitions to a new gender.
It offers insight into how children can navigate this change with grace and kindness.
Books About Different Families Are Great For Raising Little Advocates
We all want our children to stand up for what they believe in, confront bullies, and model kindness and generosity.
By educating your child about family diversity at a young age, you are helping them take their first steps toward becoming an advocate for marginalized families in their community.
We hope you’ve discovered at least a few new books about different families to add to your child’s bookshelves. Here’s to your brave little reader!
Do you have a favorite book at home highlighting a diverse family? What books about different families would you add to our list?
Brittany Cantrell is an Epidemiologist at her local health department who oversees a team of beautiful, talented women. Though she specializes in infectious disease prevention, she is a strong advocate for all public health professionals. She is the owner and author of the mindful travel blog, The World Enough, where readers are empowered to live with presence and without fear. She was born and raised in the rolling foothills of the north Georgia mountains. In her spare time, you can find her helplessly pinned to the couch by one of her two cats, heading to a yoga class, or planning her next adventure.