BATs List of LGBTQIA+ Titles for Classroom Libraries
A June post on the BATs page asked members to contribute titles of books for LGBTQIA+ students. Here is the BAT-recommended list, powerful because educators included books students enjoy and also inspire rich discussions and new learning in our classrooms. One person you can ask for assistance curating collections is your building librarian.
I added 82 titles to the original post from my high school collection. Before we go any further, that point needs to be driven home. If you have a school librarian in your building, you have someone who provides students with books they can read for pleasure and supports curricula throughout the building. School librarians use their collections and databases to develop a love of reading and teach information literacy skills to students. Ideally this is done in collaboration with classroom teachers.
In today’s world, as students look for independent reading that reflects them and their lives, teachers ask for materials to support the ever-changing makeup of their classes, and administrators make decisions about LGBTQIA+ students, school librarians provide resources to all. When students read fiction and nonfiction, they acquire empathy for the characters and situations depicted in the story. More importantly, they find themselves portrayed by authors they never met but with whom they have some things in common. That empowers students.
Returning to the list of books, I compiled it into an annotated bibliography using NoodleTools (NT). If you are not familiar with this program, look into it. Subscriptions are relatively inexpensive, and it helps teachers and students with research papers, citations and in-text references, collaborative projects, outlines, notecards, and moving from direct quotes to paraphrasing to putting ideas into a student’s own words. Besides all that, their business model is the best I have ever seen in the edtech world. If you have a question that is not answered in their help section, you can submit a question and get a personal response in less than 24 hours. Individual subscriptions are available, but inquire with your IT department about school and district accounts.
As I created the bibliography, I noticed some trends. The number of new LGBTQIA+ titles increases every year. I put my titles in a resource list to which students have access via the library catalog. That does not mean that every book is well written or every character well developed, but reading is a personal choice. What appeals to one reader might turn off another. The increase in the number of titles on the high school level was not much of a surprise to me because I am around those books and students all the time. What did surprise me is the number of titles for younger readers, in many cases for preschool and early elementary students. We have come a long way since And Tango Makes Three and Heather Has Two Mommies. Students recognize themselves and their families in these books, and that encourages empathy. These books can also be used with whole classes to encourage discussion. If the trend continues, and I think it will, more titles will be available each year.
Another trend I noticed is that recent titles overwhelmingly depict themes of acceptance and support. If you look at the earlier published works, you will notice that shame and exclusion were more common for LGBTQIA+ characters. In contrast, both main and supporting characters in recent publications don’t just come to grips with who they are, they take pride in who they are. This is true of fiction books for readers of all ages. Free choice from school libraries means that students will not be judged for what they read. This positivity gives students comfort and lets them know they are not alone.
Unfortunately, when you read nonfiction books and memoirs, you will see those themes of acceptance and support in shorter supply as authors tell us their personal stories or inform us of historical events. Remember to place things in historical context when reading or sharing with students. Moving forward, I hope that fiction and nonfiction titles as well as memoirs tell more stories of accepting these differences while stressing what we have in common.
About the bibliography itself - I used MLA 8 format. Interest levels (IL) are listed for each book immediately after the citation. These are general guides. Allow your audience to determine what choices you and your students make, and be flexible. It was not surprising to me that the fewest number of books target middle school readers. These are the years when book challenges are most frequent and exploring sexuality in library collections can be difficult. Some titles for high school students will appeal to middle school readers. Annotations are not my own; I do not claim to have read every title. They come directly from the publishers or from library catalogs. Again, they are a guide to tell you about the story line.
As you support your students this year, consider having some of these titles in your classroom collections or ask your building librarian to order them. BATs want to make this collection available quickly via this blog, but next we will curate a list of audio/visual and digital resources to support LGBTQIA+. When your school library program is good, everything else you do is better.