My interest in, let’s call them ‘unusual books’ for children, started by accident. A few years ago, I was searching online for videos of children playing that I could legitimately use on my training courses. I accidentally came across Jazz Jennings, and watched the video with growing interest. If you’ve not heard of Jazz, she is a (now) a teenage transgender activist… But the first time I found her in those early online videos, she was a pre-schooler…. and I was fascinated.
I then came across the video of Ryland Whittington. The video was released by his parents to show his transition to a happy, healthy little boy. It is very powerful, and the one I highly recommend as an excellent starting point for self-reflection, or a staff meeting discussion
Over the coming months, I read and watched everything I could on transgender children, becoming more and more convinced that at least two children I had worked with many years ago had been transgender – but we wouldn’t have known, or indeed used, the term
This led me to wonder about how many other children I had known, or worked with who had, let’s say ‘different’ home lives or circumstances… Eventually this has all led to the chapters I am exploring in my next book… So, I don’t want to go into too much detail here… but what I do want to look at are the resources that are available for us in early years, and in particular – books.
Books are a wonderful resource for children. Big books, little books, story books, non-fiction books, books in rhyme, books with no words, books about numbers, colours and shapes…. the list is endless. However, the thing that interests me is books that help us discuss, learn about and understand difference. I acknowledge that there is still a great deal of discussion needed in celebrating & promoting diversity and difference generally, the books I am particularly interested in are the things we may find particularly difficult to talk about with children, such as death, bereavement, poverty and sexuality. This is LGBTQ month, and this blog is particularly in relation to LGBTQ children and families.
Over the last few years, I’ve built up a little library of books, and have selected a few that I hope you will find interesting. Many of the books are American, so often have US spellings (color and neighbor) for example, but I’m more interested in the content than the spellings.
Julian is a Mermaid
(by Jessica Love)
A delightfully illustrated book, with simple texts exploring the world of Julian who LOVES mermaids. (Note: Transgender children are often drawn to mermaids, and I would urge you to explore the publications and research surrounding this).
The Family Book
(by Todd Parr)
A bright and colourful book looking at a huge range of families. Simple language and ‘cartoon’ type drawings make this book very easy for young to children to engage with
And Tango Makes Three
(by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell)
The story of a New York zookeeper who notices that two of his male penguins are particularly close and building a nest together. The zookeeper knows that penguins struggle to raise many chicks, and when an egg becomes ‘spare’, he gives it to the two male penguins, Roy and Silo, to care for. The two daddies do this with such loving care, that the egg incubates, and hatches and the baby penguin is named Tango. The fact that this is a true story and has since happened in other zoo’s around the world, just adds to the delightfulness for me.
Resources in Early Years Settings
In addition to books, it might be also useful to consider other resources in our settings, for example:
Consider the representation of ‘people’ in the small world area – are there enough ‘adults’ to have two mummies or two daddies? Is the clothing and furniture used to challenge stereotypes, or inadvertently reinforce them, for example?
Do the songs/rhymes we use reflect a range of children and their families? If not, can the words be changed slightly?
Are there representations around the room of a range of children, families and relationships? How can you develop this area of practice?
How do you, your colleagues and parents react when boys want to wear the sparkly dresses and girls want to drive the pretend train? Do we, however unintentionally, reinforce stereotypes or do we use these experiences to generate discussion and acceptance?
Resources for staff
A blog is only ever going to be a ‘light touch’ on any subject… and, I understand that this can be a difficult subject for people to discuss, and whilst I will offer lots of references and research in the upcoming book, I do feel this is a personal journey. I encourage you to read widely, have discussions with colleagues and teams (and indeed parents) and to create an environment which supports everyone to access that journey. I’m proud of the fact that my books are published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd, who are highly regarded for their books supporting a range of diverse areas, including LGBTQ, please check out their website for more titles to explore.
Debbie’s career spans more than three decades, championing children, families and practitioners in early childhood, across the maintained, private and third sectors. From nursery provision, through to training at FE and HE levels, Debbie’s child-centered approach has been at the heart of her roles locally, regionally and nationally. Debbie’s experience includes roles such as, practitioner, leader, author, trainer, consultant, lecturer, researcher and facilitator, developing, delivering and evaluating a range of projects. Debbie has empowered the use and development of reflective practice in order to support quality experiences for children, families and staff, through supportive interventions such as, training, team building, conferences, forums, parent/family support, new provision and CQI (Continuous Quality Improvement) programme’s.
Debbie is an active author, trainer and speaker on the subject of early years, early childhood and leadership, within the education sector. Debbie has particular interests in neuroscience, PSED, leadership, coaching/mentoring and reflective practice, and the roles these play in developing quality experiences for children, families and staff.
In January 2007, Debbie set up Stonegate Training. Our aim is to advocate quality experiences and provision for children, young people and families, alongside quality training experiences for the dedicated practitioners who work with them. Amongst other things, Debbie is accredited as a C4EO Early Years Sector Specialist and a qualified mentor.
Debbie has written several books in this area and is currently researching the areas of vulnerability, diversity and inclusion for her forthcoming manuscript. Debbie is an avid Twitter fan, and you can follow Debbie @stoneg8training