According to the Mayo Clinic, children start noticing differences between genders before they turn two years old, and have a clear idea of their own gender by the time they turn three. Children may identify as cis (their gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth), trans (their gender identity is different than the sex they were assigned at birth), or non-binary (they do not identify as male or female). It is therefore never too early to discuss gender with your child – both their own, and that of their family and friends. Conversations about gender not only help your child solidify their own identity, but also help children learn how to treat people of different genders with kindness and respect.
The following picture books explore gender from a child-centered perspective. Many of them model language that both you and your child can use to create a welcoming environment for people of all gender identities, and to talk about how you identify yourselves.
Introducing Teddy, by Jess Walton – Errol and his teddy bear, Thomas, are best friends who usually make each other happy. So one morning, when Thomas wakes up sad, Errol is determined to cheer him up. It turns out that Thomas is depressed because he identifies as female, and wants to be called Tilly. Errol embraces his friend’s transition, modeling the kind of language and behavior that kids and parents can use if and when their own friends transition.
When Aidan Became a Brother, by Kyle Lukoff – When six-year-old Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. After Aidan finally found a way to come out to his family, it took his loving parents time to adjust his transition, and to help Aidan feel like himself. So when Aidan finds out his mother is pregnant, he and his family work hard to make sure that Aidan’s new sibling will have the freedom to choose their own gender. A gorgeous book about growth, forgiveness, and putting trust in the people we love.
Jacob’s Room to Choose, by Sarah Hoffman and Ian Hoffman – Jacob and Sophie are friends, and both are gender nonconforming. On a class trip to the library, Jacob and Sophie have to use the bathroom. But Jacob needs to use the girls’ room, and Sophie needs to use the boys’ room, and both are afraid that they will be bullied (or worse) for using a bathroom that others feel is the wrong one. Jacob’s and Sophie’s classmates come together to make sure that their friends can use the restrooms safely – and to make their school an inclusive place for everyone. If you liked this book, you might also enjoy Jacob’s New Dress, also by Sarah Hoffman.
Julián is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love – It’s time for the annual Mermaid Parade in Brooklyn, and Julián is entranced by women’s ethereal costumes. When his abuela isn’t looking, Julián puts together his own mermaid costume. But will his abuela accept a boy who wants to dress like a mermaid? This beautifully illustrated book is about rethinking who we can and can’t be. If you liked this book, you might also enjoy Julián at the Wedding, also by Jessica Love.
It Feels Good to Be Yourself, by Theresa Thorn – This picture book introduces readers to children who identify as cis, trans, and nonbinary. The book contains a helpful glossary, and models language to use when talking about gender identity. A delightfully illustrated, straightforward guide to gender for kids and their grownups.