Review: Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity

Guest blogger Alison Relyea reviews Who Are You?: The Kids Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin Whedbee and illustrated by Naomi Bardoff. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017.  Order the book here!


screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-2-42-24-pmWho Are You?: The Kids Guide to Gender Identity is an insightful book that provides educators and parents a new resource for teaching gender diversity. With simple text and colorful illustrations, this book tackles some common questions about gender diversity and is appropriate for preK-6 audiences. There are also additional resources  that help educators incorporate Who Are You? into a larger exploration of gender diversity in their classrooms.

The author’s choice of language and the illustrator’s use of varied, multicultural images reinforce the central concept that gender is the outward expression of who you are on the inside. By using the word “you,” Pessin Whedbee brings the reader right into the book and creates active thinking and connections to the story. Who Are You? emphasizes diversity, and while it includes vocabulary associated with gender, such as cisgender, non-binary, and transgender, the purpose is not to define these terms but to describe the gender spectrum. In doing this, children can see that there are many more than two ways to feel when it comes to gender. The book focuses on the process of developing gender identity over time, from sex assigned at birth to childhood expressions of gender. Pessin Whedbee emphasizes experiences and process rather than categories. This openness is empowering for young readers, who are actively making choices about who they are every day.

img_8462Who Are You? Is best used as a teaching tool to spark discussion. There is no main character or hooking narrative but the book features a unique hands-on wheel that children can use to describe their own gender experience. Kids will love being able to manipulate the wheel and personalize their gender story. Older students might enjoy creating their own version of the wheel, customizing the choices even further to reflect different developmental realities.

The author includes a teaching guide at the end of the book, along with discussion questions for certain sections. She also includes literacy links to popular children’s books that spark conversations around gender stereotypes. Finally, the author provides a section of “Additional Resources” including books, films, and organizations that offer more stories and materials to support gender diversity.  

img_8460We recommend adding Who Are You?: The Kids Guide to Gender Identity to your classroom library and your diversity curriculum. As the first page of the story says, “This is a story about you.” It becomes the reader’s story in a way that will make each reading of it unique, depending on the audience. Reading this with young children will help them understand that gender identity is a personal experience and a universal process. It can positively shape the way they see themselves and others, leading to greater inclusion and acceptance.   

Learn more and access extra resources for teachers and family here!

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