Being an LGBTQ+ Family Blog, we often get sent book diverse recommendations or copies to review. It’s definitely a perk of the job as not only does it mean T’s library gets to grow, but we get to spread the word about another diverse and inclusive book that’s come into the world.
We’ve written previously about ways to grow your child’s library so that it’s diverse, as well as shared our personal favourites, however most of the time they’re books that just-so-happen to feature a queer family – just like any other book. It’s very rare, although not unheard of, that we read an “educational” book about families. Don’t get me wrong, we will have lots of discussions on what different families look like, but as far as “teaching” goes in our reading, I think we’ve got diversity nailed.
When it comes to reading and activities related to the story, we’d much rather read a “normal” story about going to the zoo or the park, and see the family featured is one like us, and then talk about it. That is, until we were recently sent ‘The Big Book of LGBTQ Activities‘.
The Big Book of LGBTQ Activities
Written by Amie Taylor, Illustrated by Liza Stevens and Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, The Big Book of LGBTQ Activities is a not a book about activities to be more queer (!) but a book about teaching children to be more accepting about different people and families.
Aimed at 6-9 year olds (Primary School), although a secondary school would absolutely benefit from this, the book is there to help deliver Relationship & Sex Education to Key Stage 1 pupils. It features a variety of inclusive stories and supporting activities at the front of the book, and at the back of the book is a separate section for adults where further topic ideas (related to the stories at the front) can be explored and discussed.
When we first opened the book, my immediate thought was “How does something like this not exist already?”. The way that the book is illustrated in a familiar and welcoming manner, made me feel as if this was a new edition as opposed to one that’s THE FIRST OF IT’S KIND. I even did a quick google, and the only alternatives were physical activity books like inclusive colouring in books or more older literature. Nothing for young children.
Children like my son.
If you’d watched my Instagram stories the other day, you would have seen a rare moment of speechlessness. Whilst talking about the book I couldn’t quite believe what I was reading and that something we have been wanting in schools for years actually existed.
Whilst I have every confidence in most schools to be more inclusive, this book needs to be in schools. It’s an incredible tool and will make discussions on families and relationships, gender identity, and sexuality, so much easier and more usualised.
As you travel through the pages, you’re invited to follow along a variety of different stories, from The Unicorn That Sneezed – a story about Prince Simon and is husband, Prince Daniel, and a Unicorn who’d never met two Princes before – to Kai in The Snow – a story about Kai who needs to find an alternative name for ‘Knighthood’, seeing as it doesn’t quite fit with their identity.
After each story is a list of questions that not only explores the story but some topics within. This might include discussions on identity and pronouns or feelings and emotions, or activities such as designing the perfect wedding dress for a Prince, playing a game of ‘would you rather’, or building a snow person.
As well as the stories, there’s some handy help guides throughout the book, such as a Glossary page and a list of further reading and signposting. The narrative is not patronising and is written in a way that teaches the teacher too!
Whilst there’s plenty for children to do, the ‘Adult’ section at the back is the most interesting and inspiring tool as it doesn’t shy away from topics that may come up in the process of talking about other subjects. Basically, things that children are most likely to ask! For example, “Can you choose to be LGBTQ?”, “How do you know whether you’re LGBTQ”? and “Can you be religious and LGBTQ”?
Although the structure follows along with the front of the book, so each chapter will be based on that story, the adult section offers further games and drama opportunities to take part in, as well as suggestions on things to talk about whilst the games are happening.
If I had to choose a favourite part about the book, it would be that the book doesn’t debate anything. It’s simply there in black and white that people DO identify differently sometimes, that it’s not a choice, and this is how you should treat people who identify differently. It’s so empowering, and the thought that a queer child could possibly feel more included, and a child like ours feels more enabled, makes my heart swell.
Right at the back of the book is also a page on supporting LGBTQ children and I absolutely love this, as it addresses the fact that coming out or understanding your own identity is not always sunshine and rainbows. It’s challenging and conflicting. After this section is also an extensive signposting list as well as websites to look at for further reading. Next to certain parts in the book is also a little computer symbol that offers teachers the opportunity to visit websites related to that topic or lesson.
With every review, I try and find something that could be improved on, however with this book I cannot fault it. The stories are the right length for a lesson, the activities are inclusive to all weather and ability, and the language and narrative encourages hopeful and positive discussion.
It’s everything I would have hoped for in a book like this.