6 books for preschoolers about gender identity and expression
Kids are often given the message that gender is fixed, but reading books that explore gender creates space for them to ask questions and express themselves. We’ve pulled together a list of children’s books that break down gender norms, in addition to being sweet stories that expand our world view. Use these books to start bigger discussions or to share the joy of self expression with your kids.
1) Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
This sparkly story is pure fun in book form. Julián loves dressing up and experimenting with how he looks. He wants to be fancy, just like a mermaid. The book doesn’t try to label Julián, it’s more about engaging with the fun, joyful experience of dressing up and embracing what you love.
2) When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff
A beautiful, heartwarming story with gorgeous illustrations that is almost guaranteed to make you cry. When Aidan is born, everyone thinks he is a girl but he knows he’s not. The story shows his journey to sharing his true self with the world and becoming a big brother and is full of beautiful life lessons. “Aidan knew how to love someone, and that was the most important part of being a brother.”
3) The Boys by Lauren Ace
There’s no “boys will be boys” mentality here. This gorgeous picture book about communication, sharing your feelings and being open-minded is full of beautiful illustrations that kids will love. There’s a perfect blend of charm and childhood nostalgia throughout, with an overarching feeling of joy. I love how this book shows that boys have feelings and it’s normal and beautiful for them to be affectionate with each other and show their emotions. (There’s another in this series called The Girls, which is equally lovely).
4) Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley
This is the real life story of the incredible Mary Edwards Walker, who in 1850s New York, decided she didn’t want to wear uncomfortable dresses anymore, she wanted to wear pants. Despite protests from those around her that she was wearing “men’s clothes” (and even being arrested for wearing pants) Mary just repeated “I’m not wearing men’s clothes, I’m wearing MY clothes.” Mary helped shape a more comfortable, less restrictive future for generations of women to come and her story holds an important message about gender expression.
5) Introducing Teddy by Jessica Walton
I love how this book acknowledges that young children aren’t preoccupied with gender roles like adults can be, and that when given the chance, they’re likely to choose friendship, kindness and acceptance in most situations. This is the story of Teddy, a bear with a bowtie, who is really a trans girl, named Tilly. She shares her true self with her friend and changes her name and style to reflect her reality. Her friend is immediately accepting and they continue to do all the things they love together. Obviously things are more complicated than that in real life, but this is the perfect sweet story to introduce higher level concepts to preschoolers in a simple, loving way.
6) The Pirate Mums by Jodie Lancet Grant
Billy is mortified by his mothers and often wonders why they can’t be normal. He’s tired of having pirates as mums! This beautifully illustrated picture book isn’t overly focused on the fact that Billy has same-sex parents. Instead, it’s all about an adventurous and perilous school field trip on a boat—and ultimately, acceptance.
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