20 LGBTQ+ books for K–12 readers during Pride Month and throughout the year

Please believe me when I tell you there are stacks, shelves, rows, and whole stores’ worth of amazing LGBTQ+ books for kids right now. It’s a golden age of sorts, and as a Black, queer woman, mom, former teacher, children’s author, and kid lit nerd, I am 100 percent here for it.

Don’t let summer break stop you from adding some great LGBTQ+ books and resources to your #ToBeRead list. The material you find and review this summer—many with themes of inclusivity and welcoming—may even be a great fit for back to school. There’s never a bad time to learn about and celebrate LGBTQ+ history and culture, different types of families, and gender, so long as your state government allows it (heavy sigh).

Here is a list of 20 books I’m loving right now, broken down by grade range. The fiction books center on LGBTQ+ characters and families, and I’ve included some non-fiction options, too. As you add to your classroom library or personal bookshelf, consider making room for a few of the books below. (All shopping links go to bookshop.org, a great way to support independent booksellers.)

Pre-K read-aloud books

  1. Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer

This is a really simple, charming book celebrating all types of families and the together times they share. Whether the characters are having a tea party, reading one more story, or looking for lost toys, kids can see different types of families making memories together.

This board book is a popular one at my house, as my toddler appreciates the large format and colorful pictures.

  1. The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish, written by Lil Miss Hot Mess and illustrated by Olga de Dios Ruiz

This delightful play on “Wheels on the Bus” follows a dazzling drag queen on her way to perform a show. It’s a joyful reminder to celebrate uniqueness and a great introduction to the art form of drag for small kiddos.

A few more pre-K read-aloud books I love:

  1. Pride 123, written by Michael Joosten and illustrated by Wednesday Holmes
  2. Love in the Wild by Katy Tanis
  3. Bathe the Cat, written by Alice B. McGinty and illustrated by David Roberts

Picture books for grades K–3

  1. Calvin, written by Vanessa and Jr. Ford and illustrated by Kayla Harren

Inspired by the authors’ child, Calvin follows a transgender boy as he prepares for his first day of school. He has worries about introducing himself to friends and teachers, but his family and classmates rally around him. It’s a great story about inclusivity and creating welcoming environments so everyone can thrive. Bonus: Some really gorgeous illustrations!

  1. My Rainbow, written by Deshanna and Trinity Neal and illustrated by Art Twink

Trinity is a transgender, neurodivergent kiddo in search of long hair like her dolls have. When a trip to the beauty store disappoints, Trinity’s mom springs into action, crafting a wig as radiant as her daughter. This one is a really sweet celebration of living authentically and loving without limits.

More picture books for the early grades:

  1. Ho’onani: Hula Warrior, written by Heather Gale and illustrated by Mika Song
  2. Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle, written by Nina LaCour and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
  3. Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution., written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Jamey Christoph

Middle-grade books (grades 4–8)

  1. The Insiders by Mark Oshiro

While running away from bullies at his new school, Hector, a queer boy, realizes the janitor’s closet he’s been hiding in is actually a portal to a magical world. He soon discovers he’s not alone: Two other kids from across the country have landed in this Narnia-esque realm, too.

The Insiders is a heartwarming read about finding friendship in unexpected (or even magical) places.

  1. Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender

Caroline can’t seem to catch a break. Her mom abandoned her, she’s being followed by a spirit no one else can see, and she’s getting bullied at school. But when new friend-turned-crush Kalinda arrives at school, Caroline’s luck begins to change. This book has it all: adventure, heart, and surprisingly elegant illustrations of grief.

More middle-grade books:

  1. The Pants Project by Cat Clarke
  2. The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy
  3. The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle E. Pitman

Young adult books

  1. Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram

This sequel to Darius the Great Is Not Okay bests the first book in almost every way. The story follows Darius, a gay, Iranian American, Star Trek–obsessed, soccer-playing high schooler, as he navigates his first boyfriend, complicated friendships, a new job, and trouble at home. IMHO, you don’t need the first book to enjoy this one, but your mileage may vary.

  1. Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

The logline for this book is wild: a teenage romance that sparks at a lesbian bar in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1954. Interest piqued, no doubt. Add a masterful handling of tough topics like the Red Scare, bigotry, and immigration and you have a page turner perfect for young adults (and not-so-young adults).

More YA books:

  1. How It All Blew Up by Arvin Armadi
  2. Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen
  3. A Queer History of the United States for Young People by Michael Bronski

Read more diverse books!

Reading diverse books—including stories centering on LGBTQ+ characters and families—can be a powerful, transformative experience that fosters empathy and compassion. As an educator, you get to help students build those social emotional skills by introducing them to people, stories, and cultural traditions they may not otherwise encounter.

As a final thought, consider this quote from Dr. Miah Daughtery, literacy director of content advocacy and design at NWEA, who had some powerful words in a recent article for eSchoolNews: “Educators are in positions to invite students to be full participants in the society they will one day lead, one populated and defined by richness in race, ethnicity, gender, and thought. Books are critical for preparing students to be part of a multicultural, diverse, pluralistic society.”

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