It is not appropriate as educators to tell students what to believe, but it is our duty to foster an environment that welcomes every individual and provides a safe space where they can learn.
Schools are to be a microcosm of society at large in which students can practice the types of interactions they will be participating in as adults. Consequently, citizenship has become as much a part of most curriculums as Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.
In honor of PRIDE month, we wanted to give our readers some ideas on how to integrate literature with LGBTQ+ characters into your classrooms.
Regardless of your religious/political/social views, you will have students in your classroom who identify as LGBTQ+, are questioning their sexuality, and/or have close family members and/or friends who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Taking this into consideration, you are likely to also have students who are being picked on or bullied for any of these circumstances.
This also means treating the use of derogatory, homophobic comments or slang as seriously as you would any other form of prejudice or bigotry. Make your classroom a safe and uplifting place for every student by banning the use of insults, whether they are about race, class, intelligence, or sexuality.
Integrating LGBTQ+ Literature
Gone are the days when the only book that addresses the LGBTQ+ population is the groundbreaking 1989 children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies.
And hopefully, gone are the days when students, parents, or teachers have to hide their identities in fear.
Many teachers feel nervous even broaching this topic, choosing rather to ignore it completely or quickly changing the subject if a question or discussion goes in that direction. But, cultivating an LGBTQ+-friendly, tolerant, and inclusive environment doesn’t mean pushing an agenda, nor does it require labeling a unit as the LGBTQ+ unit. It simply means treating LGBTQ+ students, characters, history, and current events with the same equality, dignity, and respect you do with every other population.
For starters, add some titles to your classroom library that have LGBTQ+ characters. It would also be good to have some nonfiction titles available as well.
Integrate literary pieces into your instruction with LGBTQ+ characters or authors and model for your students the respect you expect in your classroom. Don’t shy away from the relevant biographical information regarding the sexuality of authors, such as Sappho, Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, Langston Hughes, Virginia Woolfe, Gertrude Stein, or Alice Walker.
As with all content, you should make sure that you have properly vetted, studied, and received approval for any piece before teaching it or even adding it to your classroom library.
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Annie’s Plaid Shirt by Stacy B. Davids
Antonio’s Card/La Tarjeta de Antonio by Rigoberto González
The Family Book by Todd Parr
I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel
In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco
Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino
One of a Kind, Like Me/Único Como Yo by Laurin Mayeno
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
Junior High Titles
The Best Man by Richard Peck
Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
Double Exposure by Bridget Birdsall
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson
The House of Hades by Rick Riordan
The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson
Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
The Misfits series by James Howe
High School Titles
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Boy Robot by Simon Curtis
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Fat Angie by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo
Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
Lark in the Morning by Nancy Garden
Love Rules by Marilyn Reynolds
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
Vanilla by Billy Merrell
We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Teen Literature by Carlisle Webber
It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living by Dan Savage and Terry Miller
LGBTQ+ Athletes Claim the Field: Striving for Equality by Kirstin Cronn-Mills and Alex Jackson Nelson
Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community by Robin Stevenson
Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager
Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum
Gender Diversity and LGBTQ Inclusion in K–12 Schools: A Guide to Supporting Students, Changing Lives by Sharon Verner Chappell, Karyl E. Ketchum, & Lisa Richardson
The Heart Has Its Reasons: Young Adult Literature with Gay/ Lesbian/Queer Content, 1969-2004 by Cart Michael and Christine A Jenkins
“Invitation to All: Welcoming Gays and Lesbians into My Classroom and Curriculum” by Patricia Daniel, English Journal, 96:5 (2007): 75-80.
Reading the Rainbow: LGBTQ-Inclusive Literacy Instruction in the Elementary Classroom by Caitlin L. Ryan and Jill M. Hermann-Wilmarth
Representing the Rainbow in Young Adult Literature: LGBTQ+ Content since 1969 by Christine Jenkins
Safe is Not Enough: Better Schools for LGBTQ Students by Michael Sadowski
Stepping Up!: Teachers Advocating for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Schools by Mollie V. Blackburn, Caroline T. Clark and Ryan Schey