A Brighter Bookshelf: How Pride Books Benefit Kids
Books have a lot of power. If they didn’t, nobody would bother banning them, challenging them, or removing them from curriculums.
Books shape how people see the world. So what kind of world do children see today? According to literature, the world looks white, able-bodied, and heteronormative. For example, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupry is the world’s best-selling children’s book. All seven Harry Potter books rank among the top 20. In fact, not a single book on the list features a non-white or non-straight main character.
And while hetero-centric books have their merits, they take up the most space in the publishing world. That’s too bad, because LGBTQIA youth deserve a voice, too. Queer books can help them find that voice. Pride books for children have a lot of benefits. They help children build richer, more accepting lives.
The Advantages of Pride Books for Kids
So, what advantages do children get from pride books? According to GLSEN, it all comes down to mirrors and windows.
Pride Books as Mirrors
For trans and non-straight students, pride books provide a mirror. They show students a reflection of themselves. And just like real mirrors, these literary mirrors help teens gain some self-awareness.
When teens don’t have the words to describe themselves, their feelings don’t just disappear. Pride books provide words for the things that queer teens already feel every day. These books bring clarity and get rid of confusion.
Also, when kids see themselves in media, they gain a positive view of who they are. Instead of seeing themselves as “different” or “other,” they can see themselves as part of a community. They can see people like them succeed, struggle, connect, and find happiness.
Plus, pride books help queer teens see that they’re not alone, even if everyone around them appears cis and straight. Consider The Snow Cone, for example. In this book, Sarah Clark writes about her bisexuality and how it intersects with other parts of her life. Books like The Snow Cone offer advice from adults who have had similar experiences.
The shared experiences can make all the difference, too. This is true even when a kid has supportive adults in their life. Straight adults can give support and advice, of course. But queer adults can offer a more personal perspective.
Pride Books as Windows
Now, pride books don’t just help queer kids. They help kids from all walks of life. For cis and straight kids, pride books become windows. Instead of seeing themselves, they see their queer friends and family members.
Why do windows matter? Because they help kids gain empathy and improve their emotional intelligence. That empathy can help them connect with other people, broaden their social circles, and become better friends overall. Plus, emotional intelligence has long-term benefits. It can help kids even when they become adults.
Of course, in some ways, pride books still let straight kids see themselves. For example, The Snow Cone covers topics like optimism and spirituality. Plenty of teens are interested in those topics.
Meanwhile, pride books can emphasize other important parts of identity. For instance, books with lesbian main characters feature girls who don’t define themselves based on what boys think of them. These books let girls see themselves as individuals.
Overall, the more diverse the bookshelf, the more kids will benefit. Their bookshelves should include authors and characters from all across the pride rainbow.
Pride Books for Kids Can Help Parents, Too
Kids aren’t the only ones who benefit from pride books. These books can also help parents. For one thing, pride books can help parents understand their queer kids’ perspective.
And pride books also help answer a popular question: How do you explain pride to a child? Of course, the easiest way to do that is to use simple, straightforward definitions. But if you still need some help, children’s pride books make great resources. If you’re not sure which words to use, you can bet that people who write for a living will have what you need.
Choosing Pride Books for Different Age Groups
Now that you’ve seen some benefits of pride books, how can you choose the right ones? Just like with any other books, it depends on your kid’s age.
Preschool and Children’s Pride Books
What makes a book appropriate for preschool? Lots of things. Preschoolers enjoy picture books like And Tango Makes Three. The pictures help tell the story. Books with a lot of repetition can also help grow your kid’s literary skills.
But what about pride books, specifically? Again, just stick with simple words and definitions. A lot of children’s books do a great job of explaining pride in an age-appropriate way. They show kids that families come in many forms.
Middle grade books can tell similar stories but with longer sentences and more challenging words. They also feature more humans and fewer cute animals. Just like preschool books, though, middle grade books should capture the imagination. What makes a children’s book appropriate? Strong characters, a good message, and overall quality.
Teens can explore deeper things. Their books can include nuances that you won’t find in books for younger kids. As teens move away from black and white thinking, so can their books. That includes pride books. For instance, some teen books can explore the difference between sexual and romantic orientation.
Teens may also develop an interest in nonfiction books. Sometimes, they want advice and anecdotes that come from real life.
Thankfully, kids and teens have a lot of books to choose from. The publishing industry still has a long way to go, but kids have more options than they’ve ever had before.
Pride books for kids can make a big difference in the world. They help kids on an individual level, and that individual impact adds up. The more kids embrace diversity and inclusion, the more vibrant the world becomes as a whole.