Books, Parenting, Talking to your Kids

Children’s Book Recommendations About Pronouns and Gender Expression 

(6-minute read)

May 2024

By M. Vangerwen, Family Care Office/ Faculty Relocation Services Information and Communications Officer, Family Care Office, University of Toronto

As a staff member at the University of Toronto, I attended the “Foundations of 2SLGBTQ+ Concepts and Identities” training offered by the Sexual & Gender Diversity Office. During the webinar, participants requested books they could read with their children on the topic of pronouns and gender expression. As many U of T staff and students are also parents, relatives, and/or grandparents to tiny humans, we often wonder how workplace lessons on equity, diversity and inclusion can be brought into our homes and shared with the tiny humans in our lives. One of the simplest ways is through children’s literature. Reading children’s books celebrating a variety of gender identities can open the door to conversations with children about their own experiences, as well as principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

Recently, at the U of T 2SLGBTQ+ Families Connect event, participants had an opportunity to share their favourite children’s books about pronouns and gender expression. The Family Care Office also invited contributions from the wider UofT community to share book titles. Thank you to all who made contributions! Here is a non-exhaustive list of gender-affirming books for you to share with the tiny humans in your life. 

Check out the bottom of this post for upcoming events for U of T community members to learn about pronouns and gender expression and to celebrate our families. 

Book Recommendations

A sample of the children's book recommendations about pronouns and gender expression laid out on a table

The Good Hair Day by Christian Trimmer  
Molly’s Tuxedo by Vicki Johnson 
Recommended by: U of T Staff 

Both are joyful stories with beautiful pictures about kids who know exactly who they are inside and learn to defy others’ expectations about them by figuring out how to express themselves to the world! They’re great for kids of all ages.  

I am a Rainbow by Mark Kanemura.  
Recommended by: U of T Staff 

Professional dancer, teacher and entertainer Mark Kanemura tells the story of his childhood as a boy who loves to dress up in colourful clothes and how he found a diverse community of friends who loved him for being himself. Another joyful story with beautiful and colourful pictures and lots of rainbows! 

My Shadow is Pink by Scott Stuart 
Recommended by: U of T Staff 

This book had me in tears at the bookstore. It’s a heartwarming narrative told from the perspective of a child who is navigating their self-awareness in a gendered world. We get a glimpse of their joy when playing with ‘things not for boys’, but also their sadness and shame when they sense the ambivalence from their father and classmates when they wear a dress to school. As a parent, I can relate to the initial fears of the father—recognizing that your child will likely encounter certain challenges when their gender identity/sexual orientation/gender expression differs from the majority. But triumphantly, the father’s ambivalence evolves into wholehearted acceptance when he allows himself to truly see his child’s true self. His conscious decision to stand together with his child rather than shield them from perceived harm is a beautiful example of the ultimate form of love and protection that a parent can give. 

What Are Your Words?: A Book About Pronouns by Katherine Locke 
Recommended by: U of T staff member’s children 

“My favourite part was Ari – because it’s my brother’s name!” – age 5 

“I think young children could learn a lot from it – I even learned new pronouns I hadn’t heard before.” – age 12 

“I really liked that they included how each person felt each day and what their pronouns were.  I learned new pronouns and I think it was good for younger kids to learn from” – age 10 

“It was pretty good.” – age 8 

Additional Book Recommendations from the U of T Community 

Picture Books 

Call Me Max by Kyle Lukoff 
The Best Bed for Me by Gaia Cornwall 
Except When They Don’t by Laura Gehl 
My Shape is Sam by Amanda Jackson 
My Shadow is Purple by Scott Stuart 

Middle-Grade Readers 

Camp Quiltbag by Nicole Melleby & A. J. Sass 
Melissa by Alex Gino 
Rick by Alex Gino 
Small Town Pride by Phil Stamper 

Additional Book Lists 

Additional Resources 

U of T Events  

  • The FCO and the SGDO are cohosting a workshop on May 15th. Supporting our Kids: Gender and Sexual Diversity is presented by two social workers from the Gender and Sexual Diversity Team at the TDSB. Register for Supporting our Kids
  • Allies and 2SLGBTQ+ families are invited to gather for the mini U of T Family Pride Parade on Friday, June 7 (TDSB P. A. Day) on the St. George Campus at 3:30 pm. Join the Family Care Office for a colourful and festive stroll to the U of T Community Pride at Hart House. Family-friendly activities (bubble fun & face painting) will be available from 4:30 – 7 pm, with the U of T Community Pride event continuing into the late evening. Register for the parade. 
  • SGDO and Affiliated Events 
  • U of T’s EDI Calendar