As the mom of three boys, I deal with a lot of assumptions about my kids based on their gender. They must be wild, rough, and crazy, right?
I mean, sure, sometimes they are wild, rough, and crazy. But as a former preschool teacher, I can assure you that almost all kids are wild, rough, and crazy, sometimes. My boys are also kind, compassionate, gentle, and loving. And I know lots of little girls who are so much more than “sugar, spice, and everything nice.”
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Gender stereotypes hurt our kids. When we say that certain things are “for boys” or “for girls,” we risk communicating to our children that who they are and what they like is “wrong.” And if kids don’t fit a particular gender binary, they might think there’s something wrong with them, when the real problem lies within society’s view of gender.
I love these children’s books about gender identity, because they challenge the idea that only girls can wear dresses or only boys can play with trucks. These books will help all children realize that being who you are is always ok, and that we should accept our friends and neighbors in the same way.
17 Children’s Books About Gender Identity
Sparkle Boy by Leslea Newman — Jessie’s little brother Casey loves everything that sparkles, including wearing sparkly skirts, sparkly bracelets, and painting his nails with sparkles. The adults in their lives don’t seem to mind, but Jessie is not too sure about boys wearing skirts and nail polish. It takes some older kids picking on her little brother to help Jessie realize that Casey should have the right to wear whatever makes him happy. I absolutely adore this book and am so glad it exists to read with my boys.
Clive and His Babies by Jessica Spanyol — Clive is an adorable little boy who loves playing with his baby dolls. He and his diverse group of friends play with their babies together, and have a great time taking care of them. I love this book because it presents the idea of a little boy playing with dolls as totally normal — which is exactly as it should be. It’s excellent for reading with toddlers and preschoolers.
Rosa Loves Cars by Jessica Spanyol — The perfect companion to Clive is this sweet book about Rosa, who loves to play with toy cars. All kids who love cars will enjoy reading about how Rosa and her friends play together. Once again, the idea of girls playing with cars is presented as a normal activity, which is how I want my kids to view things.
Pink is for Boys by Robb Pearlman — Don’t you hate the notion that “pink is a girl color?” Me too. That’s why this book is so awesome. It goes beyond colors to talk about how things like baseball, unicorns, dress up, or cars are for anyone and everyone who enjoys them. This book is important for both boys and girls, because it teaches that the things we love aren’t determined by our gender identity.
Annie’s Plaid Shirt by Stacy B. Davis — Annie loves her plaid shirt. She wears it everywhere! She likes how it looks and how it makes her feel. Anne’s family will be attending a wedding soon, and Annie’s mother informs her that she must wear a dress. But Annie doesn’t like dresses, and she doesn’t feel comfortable wearing one. On the wedding day, she works with her brother to find a solution that both fits the formal occasion and allows Annie to express who she is.
Jacob’s New Dress by Sara Hoffman and Ian Hoffman — Jacob loves to play dress up with his friend Emily, and he especially loves wearing dresses. Other children make fun of him, but wise adults step in to explain that Jacob likes wearing what makes him feel comfortable, and that there are many different ways he can be a boy. This is a great book about gender identity for preschoolers.
From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea by Kai Cheng Thom and Kai Yun Ching — Miu Lan is a magical child, born when the sun and moon were both in the sky. Because of this, Miu Lan can take the shape of anything they wish, but they can’t decide what they want to be. The kids at school tease Miu Lan; are they a boy or a girl? Why don’t they fit in? But Miu Lan’s mother reminds Miu Lan that she will love them, no matter who they decide to be. This beautiful story is great for all children, but especially for those who are questioning their gender identity.
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino — Morris is a normal little boy. He likes pancakes, painting, and puzzles. He also likes the tangerine dress at his school’s dress up station. The other kids at school make fun of Morris, but in time they learn that wearing the dress is just one part of who Morris is. Their common interests help bring them together!
Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen — Jane Yolen is one of my favorite authors, and this book is another home run. Not every girl loves pink, but even the ones who do can still climb trees, jump in mud puddles, and play sports. This book shows there’s no wrong way to be a girl, and encourages young women to embrace the things they love — even if that means playing baseball while wearing a tiara!
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love — When Julián sees three women on the street dressed as mermaids, he is captivated. When he gets home, he creates his own amazing mermaid costume, using things he finds around the house. Julián feels wonderful in his new outfit, but when Abuela finds him he’s also worried. What will Abuela say about the mess? And what will she think of Julián’s special costume? Abuela responds with an action of love and acceptance that will move you to tears.
The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke — Violet is a brave, strong princess who is every bit as tough as her brothers. She wants to prove herself, but her brothers just laugh at her, and her father insists that she can’t be a knight; she has to get married instead! Violet decides to disguise herself as a knight and enter a jousting tournament. She proves that she has the strength to do whatever she wishes.
The Boy & the Bindi by Vivek Shraya — A young boy is fascinated by his mother’s bindi, and he has lots of questions about it. As the mother explains the significance of wearing a bindi, the little boy wishes for his own bindi. Even though bindi are traditionally worn by women, the mother lets her son wear one of his own, making him feel loved and accepted.
Dangerously Ever After by Dashka Slater — Princess Amanita loves danger and excitement. When Prince Florian gives her a rose, she’s not that thrilled…until she sees its sharp thorns! She must have more roses for her garden. However, she accidentally grows noses instead, leading to some silly adventures. This story is especially good to read with kids Kindergarten age and older.
Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood — This fun rhyming book takes the story of Cinderella and places it in space. The heroine is great at repairs, and with the help of her robot mouse, she can fix just about anything. She ends up saving the day when she is able to repair the prince’s royal spaceship. He proposes marriage, but she turns him down and instead accepts a job as the prince’s chief mechanic. Kids of all ages will love this hilarious tale.
Not One Damsel in Distress: Heroic Girls from World Folklore by Jane Yolen — This awesome collection features folktales from around the world. Each has a female main character who is smart, strong, resourceful, and doesn’t need saved by a prince. This book is great for kids who love fairy tales; it has all of the excitement and adventure, without the gender stereotypes! You may also like this folktale collection from Yolen: Mightier Than the Sword: World Folktales for Strong Boys.
Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different: True Tales of Amazing Boys Who Changed the World without Killing Dragons by Ben Brooks — Similar in style to Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, this book explores the lives of real men who have made a difference in the world using intelligence and kindness, instead of aggression and force. It features men like Barak Obama, Ai Weiwei, Frederick Douglass, and Frank Ocean. As a mom of boys, I consider this book a must-have!
The Gender Wheel: A Story About Bodies and Gender for Every Body by Maya Christina Gonzales — This nonfiction book, best for kids ages 6 and over, explains the concept of gender identity in a way that kids can understand. The Gender Team helps readers understand what our current gender binary system is, and how we can start see people outside of that limiting systems. This book also shows the beauty in a wide range of body types. I highly recommend adding this book to your collection!