Note: While there are more and more books featuring LGBTQ+ characters every year, this is still a relatively new genre. Most of the books that have been published center around white male children wearing dresses or white transgender females. I have tried to represent as much diversity as possible on these pages, but you will notice a lack of representation and a need for more narratives!
Reading socially justice oriented books aloud is only effective if it the books are chosen intentionally and the lessons build on each other. Here are some suggestions for books you might read in 4th - 5th classrooms, and situations when it would be good to read them. I am less familiar with books at this level because I teach in Early Childhood, but these are my recommendations based on research and reviews.
Books to read aloud:
Who Are You? is a great first read which teaches many key terms.
This book would provide context and a great jumping off point for discussion of gender stereotypes and gender identity. It even includes a wheel in the back of the book which students can turn to represent who they are. This book features diverse characters and instead of following one child's transition, tells a more vague and relatable story of how we come to grow up and figure out who we are.
Independent reading books:
I can't recommend George by Alex Gino strongly enough. Alex Gino, a genderqueer author, tells the story of a transgender fourth grader named George who dreams of playing Charlotte in the school's production of Charlotte's web. This books follows her path towards self-discovery in an endearing way. The book is filled with humor and relatable characters.
I have not yet read Gracefully Grayson, but I have read wonderful reviews of the book by Ami Polonski. Visit the author's site here. Grayson is a twelve-year-old orphan living with his extended family. She is conflicted over her gender identity but begins to take steps towards accepting her true self when a new person moves to the school. Much like in George, Grayson decides to try out for a part in the school play, leading her further down her path of self-discovery.
Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger is a book about a transgender boy named Grady. Grady has always known that he wasn't a girl. He decides to cut his hair and change his clothes. He must contend with the reactions of his family and friends as he finds those who will love and support him no matter what.
Another great independent reading book is called The Misfits by James Howe. This book is about a group of seventh graders who are navigating life in middle school. One of the members, Joe, dresses in stereotypically non-masculine ways and is teased. Their leader, Addie, takes a stand at school and must stick to her beliefs. This book deals with gender, sexuality and bullying through the eyes of the "Gang of Five".
Totally Joe is a companion book to the Misfits. It centers around one member of the Gang of Five, Joe, as he completes a class assignment and comes out to his family.
Addie on the Inside in the Sequel to Totally Joe and centers around another character from the gang of five: Addie.
The Boy in the Dress by David Williams
If You Believe in Mermaids...Don't Tell by A.A. Phillips
From Alice to Zen and Everyone in Between by Elizabeth Atkinson
Letters in the Attic by Bonnie Shimko