Lack of representation in books is hurting LGBTQI+ families, Deakin study finds

by Freya Lucas

July 03, 2020

Almost a third of Rainbow (LGBTQI+) families struggle to find books to share with their children that represent families “like theirs”, according to preliminary survey results from a new Deakin University study.

 

Those responding to the survey wanted to be able to share picture books with their children that reflected their own family construct, but for some, this was a difficult task. 

 

Deakin School of Communication and Creative Arts researchers Dr Helen Young, Dr Paul Venzo and Lara Hedberg said that there are “significant gaps” in LGBTQI+ children’s books.

 

“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.

 

“While children’s picture books representing queer parents have been around since the late 1970s – which is earlier than many people expect – they haven’t evolved much over this period to represent families from a variety of cultures or backgrounds.”

 

One challenge for families, they added, is that it is difficult to find books featuring LGBTQI+ families online unless you already know the titles, and many of the books are from North America, and may not accurately reflect Australian contexts.

 

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

 

Representation in literature and popular culture is an important component of children building a sense of identity and belonging, however 83 per cent of the families surveyed said they couldn’t find a family like theirs in anything aimed at young children, such as TV shows.

 

Many Rainbow families adjust the stories they read to their children in order to make them more LGBTQI+ friendly, Dr Young said.

 

“These families are often forced to adopt different tactics when they read – from changing pronouns to searching for books that represent many kinds of diverse and extended families, to avoiding books that represent families altogether.”

 

Dr Young and her team are hoping to build on their findings by gaining a wider pool of respondents, with Rainbow parents, guardians and caretakers invited to participate in the survey until July 31 2020.

 

For more information, or to take part, please see here

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