For LGBTQ+ youth today, representation is more important than ever. When kids see characters that reflect them and their experiences in media, they feel less alone and affirmed in who they are.
One place to find these characters and their stories is in the pages of a book. Not only does reading or being read to help kids develop vital language skills, but it also exposes them to new ideas and helps make sense of their emotions. As kids learn more about themselves and their identities, books become a refuge for exploration and acceptance. Whether it’s seeing a main character that looks like them thrive or the chance to escape reality for a little while, LGBTQ+ readers of all ages can find something special in a book. Here are ten books that spotlight LGBTQ+ youth and their stories.
Love Makes a Family (2018)
A vibrant board book about how love looks the same, even when our families look different. The best part of this book for kids ages 0-3 is seeing gay and lesbian parents without the need to point them out. Instead, they are accepted as loving families—just the way kids see them.
Julián is a Mermaid (2018)
Part of what makes children’s books so special is their simplicity. In this beautifully illustrated book, Julián expresses himself, and his abuela accepts him—without any labels or confusion. Julián is allowed to just be and then see others who express themselves in the same way.
When Aidan Became a Brother (2019)
In this sweet picture book, Aidan worries that his new sibling will have to go through the same tough feelings he went through, including frustration around everyone thinking he was a girl when he was really a boy. Throughout the story, Aidan helps his parents and others learn not to put expectations on the new baby. Instead, Aidan wants to make sure he helps the baby grow up to be who they really are.
My Footprints (2019)
For kids who feel like outsiders, this powerful book highlights that our differences make us each strong and unique. Bullied by kids who laugh that she has two moms, Thuy wants to be the strongest, biggest animal she can think of, so she’ll never be bullied again. With the help of the animals she meets and her moms, Thuy realizes that her true strengths come from what makes her unique.
Told from the viewpoint of the historic Stonewall Inn, this history story introduces kids to the home of acceptance and belonging. Starting with its humble beginnings as horse stables, the Stonewall Inn remembers the night that started the LGBTQ+ Rights Movement. An essential introduction to that groundbreaking moment in history.
Middle Grade Books
A High Five for Glenn Burke (2020)
A middle grade chapter book about how coming out doesn’t change who you are. Silas Wade aces his presentation on the inventor of the high five, MLB player Glenn Burke, but what his classmates don’t know is the real reason Silas did his presentation on Burke—because he was the first openly gay baseball player. And maybe Silas is ready to be an openly gay baseball player too.
Gayle E. Pitman
This non-fiction book for middle schoolers delves deep into the historic background of the LGBTQ+ Rights Movement. Giving plenty of background, photos, and additional resources, kids across the LGBTQ+ spectrum will learn more about how we got to where we are today.
Young Adult Books
Jam, a young transgender girl, has heard her whole life that there were no more monsters, that they were put into rehabilitation and restitution centers by the city’s angels. But this short fantasy novel shows that monsters can hide where we least expect them. A page-turner where Jam, her family , and her friends use what makes them special to help others understand what they can’t see.
Is getting someone to like you worth changing who you are? This is the question 16-year-old Randy Kapplehoff asks himself after changing his personality to attract the hottest guy at his queer summer camp. This story is a funny and touching reminder to teenagers trying to fit in to not lose sight of who they are.
Felix Ever After (2020)
Felix Love is a queer, brown, transgender teenager who only wants two things in life: to get a full scholarship to Brown University and to fall in love. Throughout his journey to achieve those two goals, Felix has to fight transphobic bullying and imposter syndrome to prove his worth. This book is filled with lovable characters and complex issues that are handled carefully and passionately, making it a story of hope for young adults.
When they see their experiences validated in books, queer youth can feel affirmed in their identity. Each one of these books tells a story about how special LGBTQ+ kids are, especially when they are loved and supported by their friends, family, and community.