There are millions of history books for kids out there — but very few children’s books about LGBT+ history.
In 2019, we celebrate 50 years since the Stonewall Uprising, which is considered to be the beginning of the modern movement for LGBT+ rights. However, book publishers have only recently been printing the stories of those who shaped the movement. You’ll even notice on the list below that many of these LGBT+ history books are written by the same authors. I am so happy these books exist, but I look forward to more important heroes of this movement being recognized in children’s literature in the future.
In the meantime, these stories fill an important gap, and teach all of us about important people and events that have often been overlooked.
11 Children’s Books About LGBT+ Trailblazers
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders – This beautiful book opens with a quote from Harvey Milk, and explores both Milk’s career in politics and the creation of the rainbow flag by Gilbert Baker. While the content is historic, the overall message of the book is one of love and hope. I really appreciate that this book doesn’t shy away from the opposition to Milk’s fight for LGBT+ rights, and it includes the tragic assassination of Milk and George Moscone (in a kid-appropriate way). It also looks forward to the strides at the made since the time of the rainbow flag’s creation. This is a must-read with kids ages 6 and up.
This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman – This book invites readers into a pride celebration, and shows why we celebrate unity and acceptance among all people every June. It also includes a helpful guide for parents that gives tips on discussing sexual orientation in age-appropriate ways. I highly recommend this picture book for kids of all ages, and it’s the perfect book to read before attending a Pride event with your family!
Gay & Lesbian History for Kids by Jerome Pohlen — This is such a fantastic resource! Pohlen’s book explores LGBT+ history from before 1900 to the present day. Readers will learn about Bayard Rustin, Christine Jorgensen, Alan Turing, and many more heroes and world-changers. This book is packed FULL of facts, profiles, and activities, and while it is “for kids,” I learned so much from it myself. I highly recommend it for kids ages 9 or up.
Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing by Kay Haring – Keith Haring’s iconic artwork is immediately recognizable. This biography, written by Haring’s sister, is much like his artwork: bright, unpretentious, and full of life. It tells not only of Haring’s talent, but also his generosity, his love of children, and his drive to keep creating art, even when others doubted him. Haring’s art is incorporated into the gorgeous illustrations by Robert Neubecker. This is a great book to read with kids ages 5 and up; little ones will definitely respond to Haring’s colorful artwork and will be inspired to follow their own passions.
Sewing the Rainbow: A Story About Gilbert Baker by Gayle E. Pitman – As a boy, Gilbert Baker loved art, sewing, and anything that was colorful or sparkly. But his father didn’t support his passions, and he took away Gilbert’s art supplies. Gilbert vowed that one day he’d live in a place that was full of color. That place ended up being San Francisco in the 1970s, and Baker didn’t just add color to the world, he created a symbol of LGBT+ pride that is recognized all over the world. This moving book is a great way to introduce young children to the history of the gay rights movement, and is excellent to read with kids ages 4 and up.
When You Look Out the Window by Gayle E. Pitman – Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon loved each other, and they loved their community. Their love and kindness changed the city of San Francisco, and had effects that could be felt around the world. This rhyming story is an excellent read-aloud for kids ages 3 and up. I especially love this note to parents:
People who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ) are more visible and accepted in our society than ever before. However, anyone who wants to learn about LGBTQ history and culture will probably have to search for that information on their own. Many students have never learned anything about LGBTQ history. They may not have realized that some of the authors whose works they read (or whose works were read to them) were LGBTQ. They may not know that major discoveries and contributions to the fields of science, mathematics, and technology were made by LGBTQ people. And they may not be aware of the ways in which LGBTQ people have been oppressed, and what they did to fight back against it.
The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle E. Pitman – Once again, Gayle Pittman has created a wonderful volume of LGBT+ history that is both informative and captivating. Written for middle grade and YA readers, this book is full of excellent information, historic photos, first-person accounts, and newspaper articles from the time period. Buy this one for your kids, but be sure to read it yourself; I guarantee you’ll learn something new.
Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager – This excellent YA book explores the lives of both well-known LGBT+ icons and those who have been excluded from most history lessons. LGBT+ author and activist Sarah Prager does an excellent job of telling their stories in a way that is both complete and concise. I highly recommend this book for both teens and adults, and it will surely lead to further study of these amazing legends.
What Was Stonewall? by Nico Medina – The Who Is? series is one of my favorites, and I am so glad they’ve added this volume about the Stonewall Uprising. This book explains why the events at Stonewall were important, and how LGBT+ rights have advanced since. I also really appreciate how the book breaks down the “LGBTQ+” acronym, explaining each element in a way that middle grade kids can understand easily. A great choice for the home and the classroom!
Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution by Rob Sanders – Rob Sanders has created another fantastic picture book that deals with LGBT+ history. This picture book about the Stonewall Uprising, the first of its kind, is narrated by the Stonewall Inn itself, and shows why this night the Inn was raided was so different than all the times before. This book is a great tool for kids ages 5 and up about the importance of this historic night.
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings — This book tells the story of Jazz Jennings, who struggled with feeling like she was in the wrong body from the time she was very young. It is based on Jazz’s own experiences as a transgender child, and tells her story in a simple, clear way. “This is an essential tool for parents and teachers to share with children whether those kids identify as trans or not. I wish I had had a book like this when I was a kid struggling with gender identity questions. I found it deeply moving in its simplicity and honesty.”—Laverne Cox
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