Reading for pleasure Representation

Why is representing rainbow families in children’s books so important?

…it’s all about mirrors and windows…
(and I have some recommendations)

It’s no secret that I’m passionate about the representation of rainbow families in children’s books. Indeed, a conversation with my son about the lack of positive representation (particularly in funny books) was my starting point for The Accidental Diary of B.U.G. series which I’ve previously blogged about here.

In my opinion, the answer to this question is:

A. to give children with two mums or two dads the choice to read a book that reflects their reality


B. to help children from more traditional family units to broaden their understanding of the world.

But why?

According to the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education’s ‘Reflecting Realities’ report (2020), representation is the key to successful reading for pleasure (another of my passions).

When a child sees themselves in a book, they feel validated, their self-confidence sky-rockets as they realise they’re not alone. Moreover, they’re more likely to read for pleasure and, if this habit is sustained, they’ll have better life chances, get better grades and report higher levels of wellbeing (OECD). 

So given that in 2019 (according the ONS) there were 212,000 same sex families in the UK (and three years on, this figure will surely be greater), representing rainbow families is key to reading for pleasure for a large number of children.

That’s the ‘mirror’ element of reading.

But reading about people who are different to you, is of equal importance. This is where ‘windows’ come in.

To be able to read about life from another person’s perspective, helps children to make sense of the world around them. When a reader from a family with a mum and a dad reads a book that contains a rainbow family, they learn to empathise and accept. Essential conversations are sparked which can often lead to a deeper understanding of ‘different’ and a celebration of the many similarities that unite humans.

So, in summary, from picture books for babes in arms, right through to longer reads for older children, books have a huge role to play in helping youngsters to understand our world. Whether that’s to boost an individual’s self-esteem, to help nurture empathy for different, or just to cement the fact that all family units, whatever they look like, are valid, worth writing about, normal.

Can you recommend any great children’s books that contain positive representation of same sex parents?

Yes! BookTrust has some marvellous suggestions on these pages:

Middle Grade recommendations (age 7-11ish)

Younger readers

And here are a few recommendations from me:

My Daddies written by Gareth Peter, illustrated by Garry Parsons – a rhyming picture book adventure that includes a celebration of adoption and is perfect for introducing children to a family with two loving fathers.

Love Makes a Family written and illustrated by Sophie Beer – a board book depicting a wide range of families and what they may typically do on a daily basis.  I love this book’s main message: the one thing that makes every family is love.

The Pirate Mums written by Jodie Lancet Grant, illustrated by Lydia Corry  – an adventure picture book that helps children to embrace uniqueness – whether that’s because you have two mums, or that your parents are pirates!

Uncle Bobby’s Wedding written by Sarah Brannen, illustrated by Lucia Soto – an uplifting celebration of love in all its forms.  I vividly remember my nephew worrying I might not have time to play when I told him I was getting married!

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G. (3 books) written and illustrated by me! – think Wimpy Kids meets Tom Gates, but with a witty female protagonist who, incidentally, has two mums and was adopted as a baby.

The Last Firefox written by Lee Newbery, illustrated by Laura Catalan – a fantasy tale about finding your own courage with lovely representation of an adoptive family with same-sex parents (two dads).

Max Kowalski Didn’t Mean It by Susie Day – an exploration of masculinity told via an exciting adventure and including a family headed up by two fathers.

Proud of Me by Sarah Hagger-Holt – a lovely coming of age story with multiple LGBT themes, told from the point of view of twelve year old siblings Josh and Becky who have two mums.

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