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Book Recommendations for K-1 Students


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 K-1 classrooms, and situations when it would be good to read them.

If you're looking to start conversations about gender, start with this book:


Red by Michal Hall is a great conversation starter that is not explicitly about gender, but about being different. This book speaks to the many ways in which children feel different on the inside, and how this sometimes doesn't match how they are perceived on the inside. Very well-intentioned friends of the crayon attempt to "fix" them. They ponder over how this could have happened, what might have gone "wrong". One day he meets a new friend who asks him to draw an ocean. The crayon begins to draw blue jeans, blueberries and blue whales and discovers that they aren't red, they're blue!



Possible discussion questions while/after reading Red:

- What do you notice about the crayon? Could it draw something red if it tried?

- Have you ever felt like people think you're something that you're not?

- Have you ever had people make guesses about what you like and what you can do just by looking at you on the outside?

- How do you think the crayon feels when they can't draw all of the things people want them too?

- How did the crayon feel once they started drawing blue things?

After reading Red, you can build on the conversation with this next book. If you have had a particular child made fun of for wearing something different, or if a child comes in wearing an outfit not typically associated with their gender, this book would be a good place to start.


Jacob's New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman is a book with simple text and colorful illustrations. Jacob loves to play pretend and he loves to wear dresses. He loves the way they feel. At home, he tries on a towel as a dress and asks his family if he can wear it to school. Finally, his mom helps him make a wonderful purple dress that swirls.





Possible discussion questions during/after reading:

- How come Christopher thinks boys can't wear dresses?

- Do you have something you like to wear because it makes you feel good?

- How does Jacob feel when Christopher pulls off his dress-thing?

- What does Jacob's mom mean when she says "There are all sorts of ways to be a boy?"

- Christopher says that Jacob should play on the girls team because he is wearing a dress. How do you feel about that?

After reading Jacob's New Dress, you can read One of a Kind like Me/Unico Como Yo by Laurin Mayeno. In this story, a young boy would like to be in the school Halloween parade. He needs to find a purple dress in time, so his mom steps in to help him out!


You might want to consider reading another book about a boy who likes to wear dresses as a way to compare and contrast. I suggest reading this book after Jacob's New Dress because it isn't as explicit and deals more with bullying.


Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino. In this story, Morris loves many things about school. Morris also loves to do imaginary play. He loves a particular tangerine dress because of the way it feels and the sounds it makes. Everyone at school makes fun of Morris. They tell him he can't play or can't sit with them because he is wearing a dress. All of this teasing gives Morris a stomache ache. In the end, he decides that he has to make his own fun, and others begin to join right in.



Possible discussion questions during/after reading:

- Do you have something you like to wear because it makes you feel good?

- Do you have clothes that swish? Clothes that crinkle? Clothes that go click click?

- How does it make Morris feel when the other students make fun of him?

- Lots of people tell him he can't do things because he's wearing a dress or because he's a boy. How do you feel about that?

- Have you ever painted your nails? How did it feel?

- Some of the kids in the class say "We don't want you to turn us into girls.". What do you think about that?

- Morris gets a tummyache because of all of the mean words. Have you ever gotten a tummyache when someone said something mean to you? Or when you were worried?

- What makes you feel better when you are upset? What makes Morris feel better?

The next book I would recommend would be My Princess Boy.


My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis is based off of their family's experience and their son Dyson's journey. You can watch video clips like this one to learn more about their family.

Dyson is a boy who loves to wear dresses. One day he declared himself a "princess boy" and the name stuck. This book address gender nonconformity and bullying with engaging pictures. Children often notice that the characters don't have faces, something Kilodavis says she did so the book would be more generalizable to all children.



Possible discussion questions during/after reading:

- What do you notice about the illustrations in this book? (They don't have faces). Why do you think the author did that?

- What is your favorite color? What do you like to wear? Do you like to dance?

- Princess Boy is happiest looking at girls' clothes. What kind of clothes make you happiest?

- Have you ever heard someone say that boys can't wear dresses? What do you think?

- If you saw someone being made fun of for what they were wearing, what could you do?

- How is this story like Jacob's New Dress? How is it different?

To round out this series of books, I would end with 10,000 Dresses.


10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert is a great book to read to deepen students understanding of the difference between gender identity, gender expression and gender attribution. This is also a great book for introducing transgender characters. It introduces the concept of pronouns. Bailey, the main character, dreams of dresses. She thinks of herself as a girl, but everyone in the story refers to her as "he" and calls her a boy. This can be confusing for students at first, and often sparks great discussions about the difference between how others see you and how you see yourself.


Possible discussion questions:

- What does Bailey feel her gender is?

- What do the people in her family guess her gender is? Why is this different from what Bailey thinks about herself?

- How do you think Bailey feels when the people in her family don't believe that she is a girl?

- How is Bailey the same as Jacob and the Princess boy? How is she different?

- Laurel is the only character that sees Bailey as she is. How do you think that makes Bailey feel?

- If Bailey was your friend, what would you tell her?

- Let's think back to that book we called "Red". How are Bailey and that crayon the same? Think about what made the crayon feel better. What would you tell Bailey's family to do to make her feel better?

Those books were all about children assigned male at birth who wear dresses for a variety of reasons: they feel good, they are fun to wear, they are comfortable, they are beautiful. They build upon each other in a way that deepens discussion about gender. The final book explores a trans child and their identity. If your class needs more time discussing gender stereotypes, continue with the next couple books. If your class was intrigued by 10,000 dresses and is ready to discuss transgender identities as well as other identities, skip to the part that starts with the book Who Are You?

Another possible book you might add to this series would be Introducing Teddy.


In order to continue the discussion about gender creativity, here are a couple of other books I would suggest:

If your class is particularly struggling with ideas about children assigned male at birth performing their gender in more stereotypically feminine ways, read this band of books:


The Story of Ferdinand, by Robert Lawson is about a bull who likes to do things differently. One day five people come to choose the bulls that will fight in Madrid. Ferdinand makes his way to his favorite tree to smell the flowers when all of a sudden he sits on a bee. It hurts so much that he leaps up and begins to buck - and the five people decide he is the right bull to fight in Madrid! When it is time for the big fight, Ferdinand sits down in the middle of the ring to smell all of the flowers in peoples' hair. This made everyone very angry, so they brought him home. This is a story about knowing who you are, and being yourself no matter what.



William's Doll by Charlotte Zolotov is about a child named William who loves to play with all kinds of things, including dolls. William wants a doll more than anything. His brother and neighbor call him names. His parents suggest other toys like basket balls and trains, but William still wants a doll. One day, William's grandmother comes for a visit. They go on a walk and William tells her how much he wants a doll. His grandmother goes to the store to get him a doll, which makes his father very upset. William's grandmother explains that everyone can play with dolls.

This book does perpetuate the idea that the only reason a boy would need a doll is that it will be good practice for being a father. It also assumes that all boys will grow up and want to be fathers. These are things you can discuss with your class after you finish the book!


Oliver Button is a Sissy is a classic book by Tomie dePaola. It deals with name-calling and being true to yourself even when others don't yet believe in you. Oliver wants to sing and dance more than anything else. His father wants him to play sports with a ball, but Oliver wants to dance. He begins lessons but all of the other children begin to tease him, and they even write the words "Oliver Button is a Sissy" on the wall of the school. Oliver ends up performing in the school talent show and evn though he doesn't win, his school sees that he is a star!

This is another great book for talking about gender stereotypes. In the book is states that Oliver "likes to do things that boys aren't supposed to do". You could have a conversation about the phrase "supposed to". Who makes this up? Are these rules?

This book and William's Doll both use the word "sissy". These could be good opportunities to think about the importance of words and names, especially words that hurt.



Here is a book that pushes the boundaries of feminine stereotypes. It is a funny read aloud because the words make fun of stereotypes and yet describe what is happening on the page.

Beautiful




If your class was fascinated by the discussion of gender identity and expression and pronouns in 10,000 dresses, try books featuring transgender characters:

Start with this book, written by a public school teacher, which gives a good overview of the language surrounding gender identity:

Who Are You?


There is a Gender Spectrum Story Time where the author reads the book out loud to children. The second video features the author showing the ways to use this book and modeling the kinds of discussions that might come up in the classroom. This resource page goes along with the book and provides many songs, games, and activities that can be used. It has an excellent collection!

All I Want to Be is Me

This book is an amazing resource! In fact, it comes with its own website, www.alliwantobeisme.com, and the book is actually also a song! You can listen to the song on the website, or download it here. They have ideas for parents and teacher on their website as well.

The book tells the story of a different child on each page, always echoing the refrain:

I want to be all of me,

All I want to be is me.

The chorus goes:

Don't call me he. Don't call me she. Please don't assume who I must be.

'Cuz I feel like just one of these. I want to be all of me, All I want to be is me.



I am Jazz

This book was written by Jazz Jennings, a trans teen. It tells the story of her early years and what it meant for her to be trans. This story does use the language of "girl brain and boy body" which is not the most inclusive language (see here for more information), but it is the way the author describes herself. This book details Jazz's transition and how she was at first made to use the boys' bathroom and play on the boys' team. The book ends with Jazz telling how she feels proud and happy inside now tat she can truly be herself. Jazz continues to be an advocate for trans rights through her social media accounts.



Be Who You Are

This is one of the best books on trans kids available. While it also uses the "girl brain" terminology, it does a nice job of showing a child's process through therapy with a loving family. Hope longs to line up with the girls and use the girls bathroom. After she meets other trans children in a support group and talks with Dr. Bee, she tells her parents she would like to be called "Hope" and she would like to go by "she". It isn't easy at first, and sometimes people make mistakes. The book ends with an uplifting message about kindness, love and acceptance.



The next two books are more like fantasy stories, but they still have trans characters. It would be best to read them after all of the others in this series.

Backwards Day

I haven't read this book yet, so here is the review from Amazon:

"Backwards Day, set on the planet Tenalp, introduces us to a world where there are seventeen seasons, including one where bubblegum falls from the sky for three days and a single day when everything - everything everywhere - is backwards. Andrea looks eagerly forward to Backwards Day every year, so she can turn into a boy for the day. But one year she doesn't turn along with everyone else. She's miserable. The very next day, however, she turns into a boy - and stays that way! He's delighted, but his parents are distressed, and take him to the big city to consult with Backwardsologists. When they finally figure out what's happened, the miracles of Backwards Day are fully revealed to the reader."


Tulip, the Birthday Wish Fairy

In this book, Tulip is brand new to being the wish fairy. His job is to grant kids' wishes. But one day he gets a wish he has never seen before: David wishes to be a girl named Daniela. After consulting the wish fairy captain, Tulip dips the wish in Bravery Broth, sprinkles Clear Sight Sprinkles on the whole family and puts teaching paste on everyone's toothbrushes so they can help teachers and doctors understand her. As the story goes on, Tulip grants several more wishes for Daniela and her family. One night when they go to visit, Tulip notices that Daniela's room has changed. From that day forward Tulip becomes a specialist in gender wishes.

This book is long and has many words on the page, making it harder to read out loud to a class. It would be best to read it across several days! This book is published by S. Bear Bergman of FlamingoRampant. Their website, found here, creates feminist, racially-diverse, LGBTQ positive books. They have links to their other books and they are currently working on developing curriculum and resources to go along with them.



If you are looking to explore non-heteronormative family structures, try:

A Family Is a Family Is a Family

A classroom is talking about their families. Each child takes a turn telling who is in their family. The families have diverse racial make-ups. Some of the families are big while the others are small. There are families with two moms, two dads, divorced parents, remarried parents, and a grandparent. The narrator waits until last to share about her foster family. In the end, they decide that "a family is a family is a family!"


Who's In a Family?


The Great Big Book of Families



And Tango Makes Three



The Different Dragon

This is a story about Noah. He has two moms and he loves bedtime stories. One night he and his Go-Ma come up with a story together. This story tells of adventures and dragons, but not the kind you might except. This dragon no longer wants to be fierce. Noah assures him that there are many ways to be a dragon.


If your are looking for a chapter book series to read aloud to your class, try Billie B. Brown.




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