How can educators make classrooms more inclusive for LGBTQ youth? One small way, according to Chalkbeat readers, is to incorporate stories that reflect the student body throughout the school year.
We asked parents, students, and teachers for their suggested book lists — and you responded with titles ranging from young adult literature to picture books.
Stories with varying characters and themes help teens feel seen, but some educators said they’re more wary of what they can fit into their classrooms as conservative lawmakers across the country have proposed hundreds this year. bills targeting LGBTQ people and transgender teens.
Despite these efforts, educators and students wrote with suggestions on how to create an inclusive classroom and curriculum.
“What does an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum look like? asked Rick Joseph, a fifth- and sixth-grade language arts teacher in Detroit.
“Well, basically it all boils down to stories. It all comes down to the narrative voice. It all comes down to honoring people’s lived experiences and lived realities. And when you honor someone’s story, you’re basically giving people the opportunity to tell you who they are.
Want to make your school or classroom library more inclusive for LGBTQ students? Here is a list of books recommended by students, teachers, librarians and parents.
Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
“It’s really beautiful to rethink history with a queer lens, with an LGBTQ lens. It lets you think that these are just myths. These are all epic stories that someone has told and retold and retold and say it again,” said Julia Cohen, a teacher at NEST+M High School in New York City.
“Who’s to say that those relationships…that other major characters throughout history, whether in fiction or non-fiction, in myth or in fact, who’s to say that those relationships wouldn’t have could have been queer, could not have been LGBTQ in any sense.”
- “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
- “Applause When You Land” by Elizabeth Acevedo
- “Love in the Time of Global Warming” by Francesca Lia Block
- “Wain” by Rachel Plummer
“Not All Boys Are Blue” by George M. Johnson
“[This book] continually pushes you as a reader to question ideas that have been fed to you all your life, that you never thought to question,” said Kade Friedman, a professor at New York University who advises other educators on how to create and implement inclusive programs in public schools.
“It really struck me as one of the most accessible texts I’ve read that talks about race and socio-economic status, gender, religion and sexuality, so that everyone can find something something to relate to and that you can really understand its history in. And there’s also this implicitness of how all of our identities are intersectional.
- “Red on the Bone” by Jacqueline Woodson
- “Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin
- “A High Five for Glenn Burke” by Phil Bildner
- “Birthday” by Meredith Russo
“I am Jazz” by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel
“There are people who are nostalgic for a past, a mythical past, which never really existed, or certainly never existed for everyone, you know. But in order to make school a place that works for everyone,” said language teacher Joseph.
“We have to find ways to honor people’s identities in a way that gives everyone a place at the table, you know, gives everyone the opportunity to belong.”
- “Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
- “When Aidan Became a Brother” by Kyle Lukoff
- “Cameron Post’s Bad Education” by Emily M. Danforth
Sorrow’s Bakery by Amy Rose Capetta
“It was just a really lovely book that wasn’t the main part of it, but it was a huge part of it as well. It wasn’t just a book about a struggle. It was a book about finding out who you are,” said Lindsay Klemas, high school librarian at Forest Hills High School in Queens, New York.
“It’s important to have diverse books, not only so that students identify with the characters they read, but also so that people can read and open their own lives to new perspectives. It’s another way to develop empathy and see how other people might be struggling.
- “Pet” by Akwaeke Emezi
- “The House in the Azure Sea” by TJ Klune
- “Hurricane Child” by Kacen Callender
- “Open Mic Night At Westminster Cemetery” door Mary Amato
“Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” by Fannie Flagg
“I grabbed the book from the library and read it and I was just like, whoa. And so, for me, it was just a huge thing as a high school student trying to figure out my own sexuality and seeing that in a book. And then seeing it in a movie was everything,” said Stephanie Citron, parent of a student at Royal Oak Public Schools in Michigan, as they reflected on their first reading of this book when they were students.
- “Boys Run the Riot” by Keito Gaku
- “One Last Stop” by Casey McQuiston
- “Wandering Son” by Takako Shimura
“On Earth, We Are Briefly Magnificent” by Ocean Vuong
“If you want to be an ally and want to understand the experiences of your queer and trans kids, if that’s not your identity or it is, Ocean V’s book is really, it’s really powerful,” Friedman said.
- “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara
- “Born Both” by Hida Viloria
- “I Think Our Son Is Gay” by Okura
Elena Johnson is a community listening and engagement intern at Chalkbeat.