LGBTQ Books for Children

LGBTQ Books for Children

In honor of Pride Month, I’d like to share with you our favorite LGBTQ-friendly books for children. We’re avid readers in this house and I love that the world of children’s book is far more diverse than it was when I was growing up.

Children’s Books to Read in Honor of Pride Month

childrens books for pride month lgbtq

Teaching Children about the LGBTQ Community

While we’ve always reaffirmed to our children that “love is love” it’s great to have these books to help them learn all the more about LGBTQ history and icons, breaking gender stereotypes, and what it means to be nonconforming. I’m by no means an expert on this myself, but I nevertheless want to use this space to encourage you to check out at least one of these books (if you haven’t yet!)

Now of course some of the links below are affiliate links – which means I may make a commission should you click through to purchase – but this in no way impacts my recommendation of said books. And of course if you have a book to recommend that didn’t make the list, please comment below and share with us!

Springfield IL capitol building with pride fest banner

LGBTQ Stories for Younger Children

Julián Is a Mermaid

Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love is an absolutely beautiful book, both through the story itself and the imagery. In this story, Julián dreams of being a mermaid and one day decides to dress up as one….only to be caught by his abuela. Curious what happens next? You’ll have to read it for yourself!

See on Amazon

Pink is for Boys

This book by Robb Pearlman breaks through the stereotype of pink vs blue and empowers kids to express themselves using any color of the rainbow they wish. It also reaffirms the idea that each person should feel free to enjoy doing whatever is they love!

 See on Amazon

Love is Love

Love is Love by Michael Genhart is a story about how love is what makes a family. I’ve written before about why we should ditch the step in step-child, but this book goes beyond that. When a boy is taunted for “not having a real family” he quickly learns what that actually means.

 See on Amazon

A is for Activist

This board book is absolutely phenomenal and one that the whole family is sure to love. It’s full of pictures, sound words, and a cute cat on every page for the little ones to find. Not only will this story help your child learn his ABCs but it’s sure to inspire and delight everyone!

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Introducing Teddy

When Errol finds his best friend Thomas feeling sad, he soon discovers why – Thomas wishes to be Tilly. How will Errol handle this unexpected change? Buy the book and share this “gentle story about gender and friendship” with your little ones today!

 See on Amazon

Mommy, Mama, and Me

This sweet family story shares a day in the life of a toddler and its mommies. The author – Leslea Newman – also has a similar book entitled Daddy, Papa, and Me.

 See on Amazon

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LGBTQ Books for Older Children

The ABC’s of LGBT+

While the title may make it sound like this is a story is for little ones, it’s actually an in-depth book on sexuality and gender. It also includes a dictionary/glossary to help readers understand the various terms used. It’s a great book for older children and adults!

See on Amazon

Star Crossed

This story by Barbara Dee is absolutely brilliant. In it, Mattie finds herself crushing on Gemma during their school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Oh but wait – she’s also really into Elijah, a boy she’s liked for “like forever!” What will happen when Mattie suddenly has to step in as Gemma’s Romeo? Only one way to find out…

 See on Amazon

The Other Boy

As if being twelve wasn’t hard enough, Shane (our story’s main character) has a secret that he feels he can’t tell anyone, even his family or best friend Josh. While I don’t want to give too much away, I will say that Shane’s assigned gender at birth doesn’t quite match up with who he really is…

See on Amazon

George

George by Alex Gino is another story about a trans child who yearns for acceptance…well that and to play the role of Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web. Luckily George has her friend Kelly to help her make the world see her for who she truly is!

 See on Amazon

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World

As if suffering through the destruction of a tornado wasn’t enough, our main character Ivy realizes her journal has gone missing…a journal filled with drawings of girls holding hands. Suddenly, though, the drawings start to reappear in her locker along with notes encouraging her to come out. The thing is, though, Ivy’s sister blew up over her best friend coming out…will she do the same when she finds out her sister likes girls?

 See on Amazon

LGBTQ Books for School

The Great Big Book of Families

This book by Mary Hoffman does such a beautiful job of featuring all kinds of families and their lives together. It’s not only great to help children better recognize that everyone’s family is different, but it’d make for a great classroom addition as well!

 See on Amazon

Annie’s Plaid Shirt

If you can’t guess from the title, this story by Stacy B. Davids is about how much Annie loves wearing her plaid shirt. Then one day she’s told she’ll have to wear a dress to her uncle’s wedding and she’s anything but excited. Annie doesn’t understand why her mom doesn’t get that she feels weird in dresses! Then Annie has an idea…

 See on Amazon

Red: A Crayon’s Story

Entertaining yet insightful, Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall is about a blue crayon being mistakenly labeled as red. No matter what his teacher, friends, or mother says about being red, this crayon knows who he really is. It’s a great book to teach children about self awareness!

 See on Amazon

LGBTQ Children’s Books Based on True Stories

And Tango Makes Three

I’m not sure if I’m just a sap for sweet stories or if it’s because this one is based on a true story, but I LOVE this book. When two male penguins became inseparable and formed a bond unlike any other, the zookeepers at Central Park Zoo gave them a motherless egg. Then (much to everyone’s surprise!) the pair hatched the baby!

 See on Amazon

I Am Jazz

It’s hard not to know who Jazz Jennings is, but have you shared her story with the kids? From the age of two, Jazz always knew she was a girl born in a boy’s body. Through this book, the author shares how important it is to respect each other’s differences and recognize that everyone has the right to be who they are.

 See on Amazon

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

Based on another true story, this book by Rob Sanders celebrates social activist Harvey Milk and his role in creating a global symbol of equality and inclusion.

 See on Amazon

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo

Oook so maybe this one isn’t actually a true story, but the idea certainly stems from one! When I heard about this book from John Oliver, I didn’t hesitate for a moment to pre-order it. It is by far and away one of our family’s favorite books…even if it has led to my children calling a certain man a “stink bug” (hehehe)

 See on Amazon

This Day in June

Last but certainly not least, This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman is a beautifully done reflection of the LGBTQ community and what it means to celebrate pride. What I love most about this it that it includes a reading guide full of facts surrounding LGBTQ history/culture as well as a guide on how parents can talk to children about sexual orientation and gender identity.

See on Amazon

Narrowing in on this list of LGBTQ books to read to children wasn’t an easy task. There are so many great books out there to not only help you celebrate Pride Month, but to teach about diversity and acceptance all year long. While we still have an incredibly long way to go toward a more peaceful and accepting world, reading books like these to our children is a great place to start.

Are there any books you think I missed that are an absolute must for this list?

Comment below and share with us!

Preparing Your Child for Preschool Graduation

Preparing Your Child for Preschool Graduation

Preschool graduation is one of those things that some think to be silly – “Oh it’s just preschool!” they’ll say.

And I can’t help but question if they’ve ever had preschoolers, because let me tell you – the friendships they form at 4 or 5 years old are some of the sweetest, strongest bonds. It’s especially hard if their class will be going on to different kindergartens, which happens to be the case for my first born and his preschool classmates.

Now I’m by no means an expert in this area. In fact, as I’m writing this, we’re still five days away from graduation, but what better way to share my insight than in real time.

How to Prepare Your Child to Graduate from Preschool

preschool graduation transition help

Expect Big Emotions

One thing that I’ve noticed with all the little ones is that they’re all struggling in one way or another. One of the silliest in the class is suddenly somber. One of the calmest now acts out. And oh the tears…lots and lots of tears.

My son in particular has been exceptionally emotional, which is actually what prompted this post. This morning we were watching TV and one of those “save the dogs!!” commercials came on. I didn’t even realize he was paying attention until he started sobbing. We were able to talk it through and sure enough the root of it all is that he keeps thinking about graduation.

These little ones have some of the biggest emotions.

So if you’ve got a little one preparing for the end of the school year (even if s/he’s not graduating!), expect that their emotions may very well be harder to control than normal. Even those who cannot fully explain their feelings can sense a change coming in their routine. And let’s face it – change in routine is hard, no matter the age!

Preparing for Graduation Day

We’re very lucky in that our school does hold a small ceremony to celebrate those moving on to kindergarten. The program calls it a “Celebration of Our Stars.”

It’s very important to frame graduation day as just that – a celebration.

Because let’s be honest, the preschoolers aren’t going to be the only ones struggling with their emotions. So while there will almost certainly be tears (heck, I can’t even get through this post without crying!) it’s important to remember what a fun day it’ll be.

Whether it’s a full cap-and-gown ceremony or a simple potluck-style celebration, it’s sure to be a memorable day for everyone. Talk to your little one about what to expect on the day of. While the teacher will of course be walking them through the set-up of the day, you really can’t go wrong reinforcing the expectations.

Preschool Celebration Ideas

Whether your school is doing an actual graduation or not, there are many ways to celebrate! Honestly one of the best ways to help with the transition from school to summer is to commemorate it as a family.

If you have a big family or friends looking to join in the celebration, potluck is always a great way to go. If your school isn’t doing an actual graduation ceremony, you could also reach out to the parents of the other kids to see if they want to potluck together.

A slideshow is also a fun way to celebrate. It doesn’t have to be something super time-consuming, especially if you already have an album (on Facebook or otherwise) that’s documented some of their best times at school.

And even though this site is about leading you to a richer life, I do recommend you consider buying a small gift for your child to celebrate the day. If they’re moving on to kindergarten, consider taking them to pick out their backpack for next year. Books are of course also a great route to take!

Regardless of how you celebrate the day, don’t forget to take a moment to soak it all in. If these last five years have taught me anything, it’s that time really does go by so much faster than any of us ever realize.

Quote box with the days are long but the years are short

Do you remember the day you graduated preschool?

Comment below, I’d love for you to share your memories!

Why Every Parent Needs an Air Fryer

Why Every Parent Needs an Air Fryer

We bought what I would consider to be a first generation air fryer a few years ago. It was fine, in that it cooked food crispy and but not particularly quickly, AND it was tiny. You could seriously only fit a couple of chicken tenders in it at a time, and it took 20 minutes to cook them, so it wasn’t efficient, either.

For Christmas this year, we tried again, only with a much bigger 5.7 quart fryer and it is a game changer. On busy nights it pairs perfectly with some frozen, not-the-healthiest-but-mama-doesn’t-have-time-for-kale food (lookin’ at you, Lean Cuisine pizza!)

On relaxing days, I spend hours experimenting with it, frying up all manner of things I wouldn’t have even considered frying.

Why Buy an Air Fryer

air fryer benefits

What is an air fryer?

At its core, an air fryer is a convection oven, using hot, circulating air to cook your food. The differences are nuanced but important, however.

An air fryer is typically shaped in more of a cone or dome, making the hot air circulate faster. This allows the outside of the food to crisp up while still cooking the inside quickly, preserving the juiciness while adding a perfect crunch. It also cooks faster than a countertop convection oven.

Most of the countertop ovens I looked at cost about twenty percent more than a similarly sized air fryer as well, and I’m not quite sure why. Convection ovens can typically go over the seemingly upper limit of 400 degrees that an air fryer has, but “frying” temperatures are usually between 350 and 400 degrees, so this isn’t surprising.

The best air fryers on the market have broad bottoms, allowing for a maximum amount of food cooked at once while still retaining the “frying” properties they boast. Because of this somewhat conical shape, they tend to take up less space than countertop ovens.

Benefits of Cooking with an Air Fryer

An air fryer cooks food faster than an oven would typically, and because it doesn’t require oil as a cooking medium, the food is lighter calorically and healthier in general.

As I mentioned earlier, you can toss in a layer of frozen chicken tenders, or fries, or whatever else you have on hand and dinner is ready in like 10 minutes.

On the model we have (Magic Chef), the timer is also effectively the “on” switch, so if you set it for 10 minutes, it shuts itself off in 10 minutes. There’s no “oh no I forgot the food” moments where you find that your salmon is blackened a bit more than you’d like; once the timer is up, it shuts off.

Fresh burgers come out juicy on the inside without flipping and splashing grease, and it reheats food more evenly (and pleasantly) than a microwave, though it takes longer.

Consider how microwave-reheated leftovers from a restaurant never taste as good, and you don’t typically want to preheat your oven just to heat up some chicken tenders. An air fryer is like your oven and your microwave had a baby and it was born being better than both of them (in certain applications). Reheating food is one of those applications!

Things to look for in an air fryer

Hands-down the most important attribute – and I cannot overstate this – is the size of the available cooking space. You can really only get the crispy benefits of the air fryer if your food isn’t stacked up on top of itself, so a single layer at a time is what you’re shooting for. This requires a decent sized basket so you’re able to cook quick, large batches. Ours is 5.7 quarts and it’s great for our family of 4, but if you have a bigger family or a party, something even larger might be ideal for you.

Ours is also manual, but there are digital ones out there as well that offer a wide range of preset cooking times and other fun add-ons.

Make sure you get a removable basket as well. Our first one didn’t have a removable basket, just this weird black insert that kinda held the food over the bottom of the fryer but not very well. The one we have now is a removable metal basked that clicks into the base and allows for total air circulation and for drippings to fall completely away from your food.

Finally, consider price when buying one. This isn’t a brand-new technology where higher price commands respect or the latest advancement. At its core, this is a very focused convection oven that fits on your countertop. Our Magic Chef was about $80, and it’s great. The only thing that you really need to pay extra for is a bigger model.

Why does every parent need an air fryer?

You’re still not convinced? Well, let’s recap then:

  • Cooks food quickly and crispy while retaining juiciness
  • Economical, especially if you’re considering buying a countertop oven
  • Heats faster, cooks quicker, and crisps up food better than an oven
  • Helps you make busy weeknight meals faster and easier
  • Reheats food so much better than a microwave
  • Healthier than deep frying by a significant amount
  • Doesn’t require oil to cook most foods

Obviously consider your needs before picking one up, but if you’re on the fence about buying an air fryer, I hope this helps you see that they’re not a fad kitchen gadget. It saves us time, calories, effort, and money and it will for you, too!

Do you already have an air fryer?

Comment below, I’d love to know YOUR favorite thing to cook in it!

Best Movies for Preschoolers

Best Movies for Preschoolers

The best movies for preschoolers are the ones in which the whole family can enjoy them (meaning Barney’s Christmas is out of the running!) We don’t watch a lot of movies in our house, but when we do, I don’t necessarily care about the educational value so much as my being able to sit through them without wanting to burn my eyes out.

So which movies would I say are the best family movies for preschoolers? Heh would you judge me if I said The Greatest Showman? Yeah? Harrumph, fine, we’ll keep it G-rated (oh and please note – the links below may be affiliate links that could earn me a commission should you click through to make a sale).

Best Movies for Preschoolers

Moana

Moana will forever be one of my most favorite movies. There’s such heart behind this movie and it never fails to inspire. Plus the songs are absolutely phenomenal and let’s face it – Dwayne Johnson is fantastic, even when animated.

The Snowman

This movie is perfect to help everyone unwind and relax a bit. It’s a “silent” film, but you’ll hardly notice thanks to the captivating music and gorgeous animation. We watch this one a lot during the holiday season, but it’s honestly wonderful all year round.

Beauty and the Beast (live action)

Oh, Emma Watson, how I adore you. The animated Beauty and the Beast is of course a solid choice, but the live action does a wonderful job bringing the characters to life and giving them an even more vibrant personality. While some preschoolers may be a little nervous during a few of the darker scenes (like when Gaston battles the Beast near the end), overall it’s a fun and bright movie.

Frozen

This one might be a divisive one, but if you’re not yet burnt out on “Let It Go” this musical is sure to enthrall the little ones. Personally I love this movie more each time I watch it, but there’s also a Christmas special if you need to mix things up a bit.

CoCo

I love that CoCo provides a seemingly rare insight into death, but does it in such a way as to not scare or worry younger children. It’s also wonderful to be able to educate children on various traditions they themselves may not follow, but are interesting nonetheless. Warning: you’ll need tissues for this one!

Spirit

An oldie but a goodie! I was 14 yrs old when this movie first came out, but it has definitely stood the test of time. If your preschoolers love horses, they are certain to love this family film. Bonus: there’s a show on Netflix that is similar to the movie, but updated to include a female heroin and her wild west adventures.

Boss Baby

Boss Baby just slays me. I wasn’t a big fan the first time I watched it, but (as children are wont to do) we watched a few more times and I love it. Call it Stockholm Syndrome if you wish, but to that I say – fart poop doody.

The best movies for preschoolers that the whole family will love!Click to Tweet

Horton Hears a Who

I’m a huge fan of Dr. Seuss, but even if I weren’t, this would be a movie I’d watch over and over again. It teaches children to care for others in such a gentle, inadvertent way. It never fails to inspire.

The Lorax

Like I said above – Dr. Seuss is big in our house. And once again, we’re learning about caring for others above our own selfish needs. The Lorax has brilliant animation, beautiful life lessons, and lots of sharp humor to keep the whole family entertained.

Fern Gully

I’ll never not love Fern Gully. Tim Curry + Robin Williams + fairies + life lessons = one of the best movies OF. ALL. TIME. (Disagree? Comment below with YOUR favorite!) I was only 4 years old when this movie came out, which is absolutely insane to imagine given that I’m now the mother of an (almost) 4 year old and a 5 year old, but that just goes to show – Fern Gully is one for the ages.

Trolls

Okay so this was another one that took a while to win me over. I’m often put off by movies that get too hyped up and that was the case with this one. However, I’ll now gladly watch it with (or without) my preschoolers any time. The animation is just out of this world and the songs are just so much fun. This is another one that now has T.V. shows, too, so you can mix it up to avoid burnout.

Happy Feet

Baby penguins. Need I say more?! Okay fine, how about baby penguins, jaw-dropping animation, brilliant musical numbers, and once again those life lessons that will help our children grow to lead with kindness.

Inside Out

Inside Out is probably one of the most perfect movies for preschoolers because let’s face it – there are few creatures on earth that have less of a hold on their emotions than preschoolers. I will say that this one is technically rated PG, but it’s due to the high emotional rollercoaster vs anything actually inappropriate for children. It’s a wonderful family film, though, and teaches us all one of the most important (but hardest) lessons: never stifle your emotions.

Lilo and Stitch

Bringing in another one from my childhood! Lilo and Stitch is such a sweet movie, but funny enough to keep the adults entertained, too. While I hope my daughter doesn’t grow to be quite as sassy as Lilo, let’s face it – us girls are all a wee bit dramatic at times. Let’s just hope she doesn’t bring home any dog-aliens…

Room on the Broom

I love the book, but the movie is even better! This is a fun one, too, in that the movie will help your children memorize the book, which in turn can help improve their eventual reading skills. Room on the Broom isn’t just one of the best movies for preschoolers, but one that will teach your children there’s always room for another friend in their lives.

WALL-E

So I promise you that when I made this list, I truly wasn’t thinking about how many of them are environmentally related but heh…well here we are and yes, WALL-E is one I’d definitely recommend. While the lack of conversations in the beginning may make it difficult for kids to pay attention, it picks up eventually and not only teaches our children the importance of caring for the world, but also shows them what a difference one person (err..robot) can make!

The Land Before Time

Last but not least, another that has stood the test of time. I’m pretty sure there’s like 108 versions of this movie by now and yeah, they’re pretty much all the same – dinosaur gets lost and/or has a fight with his friends, meets up with a sharp tooth, sings a song or two, finds his way back to friends, and YAY! All is well for a while. The original Land Before Time will always be my favorite, but I’ll admit that a few of the new ones do have a catchy song or two.

So what say you – do you agree with this list?

Which ones should I have skipped?

Did I forget any?

Comment below and let me know!

Food Drive Alternatives

Food Drive Alternatives

I never considered holding a food drive to be a potential waste of resources until I spoke to the CEO of a food bank in our state. As I stared up at the walls of dry goods available, she remarked, “I’m not saying food drives are a bad thing, but if you’re thinking about spending money to then donate goods, think again.”

Not all food banks are created equal, but in general, it’s far better to donate money than food.

See most food banks have what’s costed a “cost sharing” program through which food pantries can purchase additional goods at a significantly lower cost (at the food bank I visited, the cost was about $0.16/lb!)

Now as someone who has worked in fundraising and not-for-profits, I get the psychology behind donating a “good” versus money, but it’s time to re-consider where your dollar is going.

We’ve all seen those “brown bag offerings” at grocery stores, where you can “buy” a bag to then be donated to a family in need. It’s great that you want to help, but guess what? Not only is the grocery store still profiting from this good deed, but your $20 would go 100x further if given directly to your local food pantry or food bank.

Even if you were to shop at Aldi, $20 might get you 10-ish boxes of dried goods to then send off to someone in need.

But $20 at a food bank? Heh well that could get you nearly this entire pallet of Cheerios:

food drive money

The best part is that most food banks will allow you to donate funds to them and direct those funds for a specific purpose (i.e. if you’re looking to help one specific food pantry vs general food bank costs).

So if you’re considering hosting a food drive, might I suggest a few alternatives that are not only way more fun, but also far more beneficial to those in need.

Food Drive Alternatives

Easy fundraiser ideas that are a great alternative to food drives. Why you should donate money instead of food!

Hold a Garage Sale

If you’re going to be asking people for physical donations anyway, why not skip the food and go right for the goods. When done right, it’s easy to hold a profitable garage sale and you’re not missing out on the “feel good” vibes people get from donating something other than money.

Partner with Food Trucks

Here in Springfield, IL (and well…pretty much everywhere these days) food trucks are a big hit. There’s little better than grabbing a breakfast burrito from my favorite food truck as I meander my way through our local farmer’s market…well except if said food truck was then donating a percentage of their proceeds to our local food bank! While it may take a bit more technical work and scheduling that a regular ol’ food drive, you might consider hosting an event when a number of food trucks come together in one specific area for a night and then donate part of their profits to your community food pantry.

What’s better than you getting dinner while helping someone else get theirs!

Penny Wars

food drive alternative penny wars fundraiser

This was a fun one my students came up with prior to my quitting my job at the college to become a professional blogger. Each club participating would receive one point for every penny donated, but would then be docked points for every silver coin donated “against” them. During this week long event, they raised nearly $300; more than enough to buy over 3,360 cans of tomatoes –

food drive donation ideas

Hold a Raffle

Once again if you’re going to ask for donations, why not ask for goods that can then be raffled off? Some of the baskets could even be “food centered” – i.e. a date night basket in which you have a box of spaghetti, some marinara, a movie rental coupon, and a bottle of wine. While it may only go for $15, that $15 can then be turned into 6 pallets of Nature Valley bars:

food drive alternatives

And that’s just one basket!

Run a Virtual Food Drive

Know someone who can build a simple website? Have them create a one page site that allows for monetary donations, but gives donors the opportunity to “shop” for the goods they wish to donate. When someone can see just how far their dollar will be stretched, they’ll be all the more likely to donate a bit more than they might were they simply shopping for products themselves.

Battle of the Bands

This is another one that I just LOVED putting on when I worked in Higher Ed. Not only is it a great opportunity to showcase the talent in your local community, but you’re almost guaranteed a massive turnout. Charge $5/person and hold a 50/50 raffle or sell t-shirts and you could be looking at raising an easy $1,000!

battle of the bands food drive alternative

Sell Those Tickets

We’ve all been to events where you could bring a canned good for your entry fee, but what if the company were to simply keep selling tickets and instead donate proceeds to a food bank? If you highlight where the money is going, it’s unlikely that you’d see a significant decrease in attendance, but you WOULD see a massive increase in how you’re helping your community.

food drive fundraiser ideas

I get it – as far as donations go, it feels far better to say “we collected over 1,000lbs of food this month!!” than simply “we raised $500 for the food pantry this month!!”

But put yourself in the shoes of a food bank employee and imagine getting twenty 50lb boxes of mixed donations – some expired, some smashed up beyond recognition, and sure plenty of good food…that now needs to be sorted, put away, and stored somewhere. While those donations will certainly help someone in need, the time, energy, and (yes even) money then impact just who is helped and how.

And if you still feel the need to do something beyond writing a check – or if you simply don’t have the funds to do so – consider volunteering your time at the food bank or pantry itself. That in and of itself is so incredibly valuable, not to mention is sometimes a volunteer opportunity you can do with children (note: always check with any NFP regarding their age requirements for volunteers!)

It’s important to give back and if you’re motivated to host a food drive, by all means, go for it. But if you really want to stretch your time and money, consider an alternative route that can make a much bigger difference.

Do you agree or disagree with the idea that donating money is better than food?

Comment below and let me know, I’d love to hear from you!