Children’s books are so much more than just short stories read at bedtime to get the little ones to sleep. They’re often filled with important messages that teach kids lifelong lessons.
But for new mum Jessica Walton, she couldn’t seem to find a children’s book that related to her family and dealt with the issues she wanted to communicate to her son.
The former school teacher from Melbourne then decided that if she couldn’t find it, she’d have to write it. And that’s exactly what she did after her father came out as a transgender woman, Tina.
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The book is called Introducing Teddy and is a gentle look at people’s differences and embracing diversity.
“We wanted to find books that had transgender characters, and there are some out there, but none that are really aimed at the kind of [babies-to-5] kind of age range. So we wanted something really simple and sweet,” Walton told ABC’s Four Corners.
“Where someone would say, ‘This is who I am,’ and the characters around them would say, ‘Great, no worries, let’s go and play.'”
Raising more than $20,000, Walton and illustrator Dougal MacPherson self-published the book through crowdfunding website Kickstarter.
Walton’s transgender mum, Tina, has also shared her overwhelming joy following the book being published.
“I just cried happy tears,” Tina said during her Four Corners interview.
“It was wonderful, such a wonderful thing and such a beautiful, positive book. It’s a book about difference and about accepting difference, and I was so proud of her when I saw it, and its illustration is beautiful, and the story is really appealing.”
The story has since gone global, with people sharing their love and appreciation for the book on social media.
“My heart might burst, this is so lovely,” one person shared on Twitter. “Young children all over the world will soon be able to learn about being transgender,” said another.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more of these stories were mainstream and authors and creatives didn’t have to raise their own funds to self-publish such books?
Children’s books have long pushed gender stereotypes, where princesses meet their Prince Charmings and live happily ever after, so it’s refreshing and necessary to see a diversification of stories available to kids.
This way, kids from a diversity of backgrounds feel they have stories they can resonate with, but also feel that their stories are worth being told.