Blogger Library Service to Underserved Children and Their Caregivers committee

Boys and Girls

In the March 16, 2014 edition of The Independent, literary editor Katy Guest announced that the newspaper would no longer review gender-specific books. “Any Girls’ Book of Boring Princesses that crosses my desk will go straight into the recycling pile along with every Great Big Book of Snot for Boys.”

Wilsdon, Christina, and Alecia Underhill. For Horse-Crazy Girls Only: Everything You Want to Know About Horses. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2010. Print.
Feiwel and Friends, 2010.

I have mixed feelings about the newspaper’s decision to reject gender-specific books because I feel that it borders on censorship.There are some high quality children’s books that might go unread if other reviewers follow suit. For example, Jon Scieszka’s Guys Read series of paperback anthologies includes stories by award-winning authors Margaret Peterson Haddix, Jarret J. Krosocska, and Walter Dean Myers. One of my favorite MG nonfiction books is  Christina Wilsdon’s For Horse-Crazy Girls Only.Yes, the cover is pink and the title is unfortunate, but the book is well written, organized, informative, and fun to read.

Walden Pond, 2011
Walden Pond, 2011.

However, I do respect the editor’s desire to protect children who may not identify with their gender’s stereotypes. What can we do to make sure all children feel welcome in the library? I asked journalist and radio personality Fran Fried for her perspective.

Journalist, Fran Fried.
Journalist, Fran Fried.

 How can libraries better serve transgender youth?

Fran: Well, there are more books available. There are adult titles such as Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness and Jennifer Finney Boylan’s memoirs She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders and I’m Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted. There have been a couple of books for younger readers and their parents. In 2009, a Seattle mother, Cheryl Kilodavis, wrote a picture book called My Princess Boy: A Mom’s Story About a Young Boy Who Loves to Dress Up. Last fall a Southern California mother, Lori Duron, wrote Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Slightly Effeminate, Possibly Gay, Totally Fabulous Son based on her blog of the same name. The best things a library can do, I believe, are:

  1. Make books available for trans youths and their parents who may or may not be struggling with a child’s transition
  2. Treat the trans books the same way you would any other books–place them in the stacks as you would any nontrans literature and let people find them… A little subtlety goes a lot further than neon arrows.

Next, I spoke with Rebecca Chapin, the founder and program manager of the Transgender Initiative at the LGBT Center of Raleigh. She offered expert advice on how to make libraries more welcoming. One simple thing we can do is to add a space on library card applications for “preferred name.” Not enough room on the form for this extra line? Omit the gender question.


Today’s post was written by Rebecca Hickman, ALA ALSC Committee Member, Library Services to Special Populations and Their Caregivers



  1. Renee Perron

    Does anyone have any recommendations for parenting books that I can include in my Children’s Library’s Parenting Collection about parents who are gay or LGBT?

  2. Heather McCammond-Watts

    We have a transgender collection in our library, and are continually finding new ways of helping our community find the resources they need. We have a book list, “Free to Be: Nontraditional Gender Roles for Kids” which we give to parents and caregivers to help them find these wonderful books:

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