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?