Same-sex parents still struggle to find kids books with rainbow families


heather has two mommies rainbow families
Children's book Heather Has Two Mommies. Photo: Supplied.

Close to a third of Australian same-sex parents struggle to find books for their children that represent rainbow families like theirs, according to new research.

Deakin School of Communication and Creative Arts researchers Dr Helen Young, Dr Paul Venzo and Lara Hedberg have surveyed LGBTQI+ parents, guardians and care-givers on their experiences with LGBTIQ-inclusive childrens books. They say there are significant gaps in LGBTQI+ children’s books.

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In their preliminary results, all respondents so far expressed a desire to read picture books reflecting their own family’s situation. However some found this task difficult.

“Our preliminary survey results show about 30 per cent of respondents couldn’t find a family ‘like theirs’ in a picture book, even though 100 per cent said doing so was important to them,” Dr Young said.

“Children’s picture books representing queer parents have been around since the late 1970s – which is earlier than many people expect.

“However they haven’t evolved much over this period to represent families from a variety of cultures or backgrounds.

“On top of that, it’s hard to find books featuring LGBTQI+ families online unless you already know the titles.

“The ones that do exist mostly come from North America. There are a few that are well-known and often come up in searches. However it can be hard to find more.

“This means that for many people there’s a very narrow range of representations of the diversity of rainbow families.

“The books that do exist are often not easily located because there’s no consistency in how they are categorised in library catalogues or referred to online.”

How same-sex parents adapt stories to include themselves

Dr Young stressed the importance of representation in literature and pop culture to rainbow families.

Eighty-three per cent of respondents couldn’t find a family like theirs in other media aimed at young children, including TV.

“We’ve learned that Rainbow families have different ways of adjusting children’s books to make them more LGBTQI+ friendly,” Dr Young said.

“[These include] changing pronouns to searching for books that represent many kinds of diverse and extended families, to avoiding books that represent families altogether.”

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Dr Young invites all rainbow parents, guardians and caretakers to share their own experiences in her team’s survey. It is open until July 31 at the link here.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.