Serving LGBTQ Families

Naidoo, Jamie Campbell. Rainbow Family Collections: Selecting and Using Children’s Books with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Content. Libraries Unlimited, 2012. $30.  ISBN 978-1-59884-960-8.

Although the bulk of this resource book focuses on children’s literature with LGBT content, Naidoo also has information on understanding and serving LGBT families, on library programs and services that include LGBT families, and other agencies that help this group.  Since the Bay Area has such a large number of LGBT families, this is an essential purchase.  Luckily, Naidoo’s writing style is not overly “academic,” but inviting and supportive to those who want to better serve this community.

Of course, those of you in areas that don’t appear to have a noticeable LGBT community should seek out this book, because many families are closeted if they live in an area that may be unfriendly to gay families. You may think you don’t have any LGBT families visiting your library – but you do, and this book will be a great resource. Also, many of these books are great for any family, since they help open the minds of children who may end up with a classmate from a rainbow family, and some of the books break down gender stereotypes, such as Tomie DePaola’s Oliver Button Is a Sissy.

The book begins with an overview on LGBT families, showing their diversity and complexity. Over two million children are being raised in families with a LGBT parent; I would bet the percentage in the Bay Area is higher than in the U.S. in general, making this book all the more important for local libraries to have.

The next section is very interesting, with chapters on the history of books with LGBT content, as well as book awards that focus on LGBT children’s literature. These awards include the Stonewall:http://www.ala.org/glbtrt/award/honored#2012 and the Lambda Literary:  http://www.lambdaliterary.org/awards/24th-annual-lambda-literary-award-finalists/ .

The three sections that focus on books feature annotated entries on more than 250 books, divided into picture books, chapter books, and nonfiction, and a few media items.  Naidoo only includes books for up to fifth grade/age 10, but no Young Adult books. Those interested in YA books with GLBT content should look for The Heart Has Its Reasons by Michael Cart and Christine A. Jenkins.

Most Bay Area libraries purchase these children’s books, but this is a great way to see if you need additional or replacement copies. Another great aspect of the book is the ideas for programs and services. The author includes information on San Francisco Public Library’s program on LGBT books and performing arts (page 22), which others may want to adapt for their own libraries.  Another great programming resource mentioned is from the Collaborative Summer Library Program organization, which offers Summer Reading Program themes, prizes and reading logs.  They have an area on their website for Alternative Families; scroll down to the list of GLBT FAMILY RESOURCES: http://www.cslpreads.org/alternative-families.html .

An essential chapter describes how to make your library and library programs more inclusive to Gay and Lesbian parents. Using terminology such as “folks” or “parent” instead of mother or father is preferred. I think this is also helpful to our many families headed by a grandparent who is the main caregiver of the children in that family. Naidoo’s book is thoughtful and very readable; seek it out to confirm that your library is serving this area of our population.

Penny Peck, San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science

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