I’ve learned there’s always something different each time I read with the kids at the library. I have 2 students in back to back sessions. The second girl usually picks her own books from the stacks and is waiting for me when I’m done with the first girl.
The first book she read was about a Teddy bear. One day, the Teddy bear was sad. The young boy who was his friend could not cheer him up. The boy asked him why he was sad. But Teddy didn’t want to tell him. He was scared his young friend won’t be a friend anymore. Teddy tells his friend that he doesn’t feel like a boy Teddy but a girl Teddy. And he likes to be called Tilly instead of Teddy. The young boy assures him he doesn’t care if he is a boy Teddy or a girl Teddy. Assured of his friendship, Tilly became happy again.
I wasn’t expecting a book like this. I asked my student if she liked the story. She said it was a good story. She grabbed the next book and read the title out loud. She was about to open the book but then she reread the title again “Heather has 2 Mommies.” She looked at me with her eyes wide open.
“Matt – I think they are lesbians.”
It was Pride month and the library probably had a lot of LGBTQ friendly books up on display in the children’s section. When I used to select books with my student, she chooses books because of the graphics and then checks to make sure it’s easy to read. I’m pretty sure she just grabbed a handful of books without really checking out the content.
I asked “Do you want to read it?” She nodded and quickly opened the book.
In the story, the main character Heather has two mothers. During a class discussion, she was asked by a student what her daddy does. She said she doesn’t have a daddy. She then wonders if she’s the only one that doesn’t have a daddy. The teacher decided to use that moment to illustrate a point. The students were asked to draw their family. Every family was different. Some had single parents, one of the kids just had a grandparent, one had a daddy and a papa, one had a mom, stepfather and a dad and so on. The message was that families can be different and as long as there is love, it doesn’t matter what it looks like.
My student didn’t say anything when she finished reading. She didn’t object nor did she have any questions.
The next book was called the I Love My Purse. A boy named Charlie decides one day he’ll bring a red purse to school. At first my student thought Charlie is the spelling for Shirley. I didn’t pick up on this because she likes to read fast. Then I heard her say Shirley and told her it’s Charlie. That’s when she understood it was a boy.
Charlie’s dad tries to talk him out of bringing a purse to school. But Charlie just wants to do something different. He suggest to his dad maybe he should wear a Hawaiian shirt to work one day. At school he’s asked about the purse and also teased. I was surprised that my student got into the story. Soon she started chastising one of the characters. “He’s stereotyping!”. I was surprised she knew the word.
The next day, everyone Charlie has met the previous day decides they too will show some individuality. His dad wears his Hawaiian shirt to work. A crossing guard wears his sparkling shoes. It’s another happy ending. My student seemed to like the book. I asked her if there was anyone in school that seems to be different. She thought for awhile and nodded. But she didn’t go into details.
She was hesitant to read the last book because there were so many words. She said it was the toughest and she likes to leave it till the end. I think she hopes we’ll run out of time so she doesn’t have to read all of it. I told her we could share the reading. The book was One of A Kind Like Me / Único Como Yo. It’s the first time I’ve seen a bilingual children’s book.
“What is this?” she asked and pointed to the page with the Spanish words.
“How do read it?”
“We can stick to the English part.” I did manage to read 1 line although I’m sure I mispronounced every word.
The story is about a boy who wants to wants to be a princess for his school’s parade. His mom is supportive and together they rush to find materials in a thrift store to create his costume. At the end of the book, the author said it’s based on a real story about his son. There’s a picture of his son dressed as a princess. My student saw that too but she didn’t say much. Our time was also up so we didn’t get a chance to talk about all the books. But she didn’t complain it was boring or bad.
Sometimes I’ll ask my students what they think will happen next in the story or what would they do if they were one of the characters. It just gets them thinking a bit more about the story rather than just reading the story.
I walked home with my spirits a bit higher. I thought about LGBTQ parents and how these books could help them. I think it’s important that children are exposed to them early in their lives. I’m glad my library had the foresight to get them. And I hope other parents seeing these books won’t feel scared or resentful.