Part of Valentine’s Day history is that it is meant to celebrate St. Valentine, a man who secretly married couples after the Roman Emperor forbade it because he thought single men were better soldiers. St. Valentine defied the laws of love for his time, and if he were alive today, I like to think he still would. Love comes in many forms. The ways our hearts love can be expressed in many colors, shapes, and identities.
Kids need to see the importance of self-love, love between races, love with all combination of genders, and the beauty of love in friendships. These ten perfect Valentine’s Day books for kids will help you and your kids celebrate love’s diversity on February 14th.
1. Worm Loves Worm, J.J. Austrian
In Worm Loves Worm, J.J. Austrian uses very deliberate language to challenge old assumptions of love and marriage. The book was released shortly after the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage should be legally recognized. When friends find out that Worm and Worm want to be married, they insist on needing to know who will be the groom and who will be the bride. Each worm decides they can each be the bride and the groom and both wear pieces of a tuxedo and a wedding gown. Even though that is not how it has been done in the past, Worm and Worm decide that there are new ways to do things. Love is bigger than gender and gender expression.
2. Pete the Cat: Valentine’s Day Is Cool, James Dean
I am a sucker for Pete the Cat and his groovy vibe, but sometimes Pete needs his friends to help reset his chill demeanor. In Pete the Cat: Valentine’s Day Is Cool, Pete isn’t a fan of Valentine’s Day until his friend Callie tells him it is her favorite holiday. Instead of yucking her yum, Pete practices gratitude and sees the beauty in each of his friends.
3. And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson
Roy and Silo are male penguins in Central Park Zoo who pair off as mates. They sing to each other, look out for each other, and build a nest of stones and sleep on it, waking each morning hoping to find an egg. The zookeeper, Mr. Gramzay, sees their relationship and desire to have a baby like the male and female couples they live with so he places an unhatched egg in their nest. And Tango Makes Three is based on the true story of same-sex penguins who became fathers together, proving love comes from surprising places.
4. The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage, Selina Alko
While we are all capable of loving, we need to teach our kids that interracial relationships were not always celebrated; they were illegal. The Case for Loving tells the story of Mildred and Richard Loving who were arrested in Virginia for being a married interracial couple. The historic Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia was won by Loving and the verdict ended race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States. The Lovings would not allow their children to see or believe that their love was wrong or punishable. We need to teach our children the same.
5. A Little SPOT of Love, Diane Alber
A Little SPOT of Love is part of an eight-book series by Diane Alber that teaches kids about emotions and how to manage them. This book reminds kids that everyone needs and deserves love and that there are lots of ways to grow a love spot. Playing with a friend, speaking to ourselves and others with kind words, and spending quality time with someone are all ways to show and feel love. Love is a big feeling and sometimes our kids need to be reminded that it can be expressed in many ways.
6. The I Love You Book, Todd Parr
Todd Parr is one of the most consistently inclusive children’s authors whose books can fill any home library with topics from adoption to underwear. His bright and diverse illustrations mix perfectly with his message of unconditional love in The I Love You Book. Each picture is paired with a sweet note telling kids they are loved when they are scared or brave, stinky or clean. This is a perfect Valentine from parent to child.
7. Coco and Olive: The Color Of Love, Michelle Madrid-Branch
The Color of Love was written by an international adoptee and mother-by-adoption. Madrid-Branch uses dogs Coco and Olive to capture the love and diversity of family through adoption. Home is where the heart is, and it doesn’t matter how we work our way into each other’s hearts. Love can be born from the womb or from worlds apart.
8. Prince & Knight, Daniel Haack
Prince & Knight is an updated fairy tale that shows kids that not all princes have to marry a princess. When the prince tries to save his kingdom from a fiery dragon he is helped by a knight in shining armor, who turns out to be the prince’s true love. The men get married and live happily ever after.
9. This Is Not a Valentine, Carter Higgins
This Is Not a Valentine is full of sweet gestures of thoughtfulness, affection, and friendship between a little boy and the girl he likes. Instead of perpetuating the toxic message that boys tease or bully girls because they like them, this book shows the uninhibited pureness of giving away lucky rocks and toys from gumball machines to show his feelings.
10. Listening With My Heart, Gabi Garcia
We need to give ourselves the same compassion and empathy we would give to a friend, relative, or partner. Self-love is just as important as loving the people in our life but it’s not always easy to show ourselves kindness. Listening With My Heart will help kids build emotional resilience so they can go into any relationship with a sense of worth and happiness.
Valentine’s Day is more than flowers, chocolate, and paper cards; it’s about following our hearts. Love is sometimes seen as an act of resistance or rebellion, but celebrating love’s diversity every day will make the world better.
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