How to Celebrate Pride Month in Your Library or Classroom
Is your library program or classroom instruction LGBTQ-sensitive? Perhaps, like me, you consider yourself an ally but recognize that you have room to grow.
As I was preparing this post, I reflected on what values I communicate to students through the books I read to them, the books I put on display and the books I share as my favorites. What do these selections say about how I value diversity? Or how I support marginalized voices? Or even how much I value and respect the cultural and familial backgrounds of my students?
The school year ends in June for our students, and often the month is spent winding down. Is this why I haven’t promoted Pride Month in our elementary school previously? Is it because I didn’t feel like many students would understand or relate to the issue? Is it because I feared that I might be criticized by parents or staff members for recognizing LGBTQ individuals and issues with 5–10 year olds? I bring up these questions not because I am sure of the answers, but because I know that I can change and that I always have space to do better, to represent all voices and to help each of my students feel valued for their experiences and for all that makes them who they are.
So how do you talk about LGBTQ issues with elementary-age children? The answer is that you talk about LGBTQ issues the same way you would approach any topic: with respect, openness and love. I’ve pulled together a list of resources that includes books that make great read alouds, resources that make great teaching tools, and websites and podcasts for you (and all of us) to grow as educators and to become more sensitive and representative toward LGBTQ individuals and issues.
I hope you will find these resources useful all year round and that Pride Month this June can be transformative to you and your program, as I know it already has been to me.
Learn About Pride Month
You might want to begin by simply learning more about the history of Pride Month and the different ways it is celebrated. The Library of Congress has information about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month) as well as links to executive and legislative documents, including presidential proclamations and public laws.
In addition, the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association maintains an International Gay Pride Calendar that can be filtered by month or country with events taking place around the world. The site also provides background information on the use of the phrase “gay pride,” the history of gay pride parades and some suggestions on how to use their list of calendar events.
Books With LGBTQ Characters or By LGBTQ Authors
In the landscape of #WeNeedDiverseBooks, it is important that we find high-quality literature that reflects the LGBTQ experience from voices and allies of that community. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) recently published its Statistics on LGBTQ+ Literature for Children & Teens from their analysis of books published in 2017, and the results reiterate the need for diverse books.
With regard to these statistics and to bring to light some outstanding books for children and teens, here are book lists that will help connect you and your readers with LGBTQ-positive stories.
- LGBTQ Books (from Common Sense Media): “From books with main characters who are LGBTQ or still figuring out their gender or sexual orientations, to stories of straight kids or teens with gay friends or parents, these books portray many aspects of the LGBTQ experience.”
- 30 LGBTQIA-Positive Children’s Books That’ll Teach Kids How Beautifully Diverse The World Is (from Bustle): “There are so many different reasons to be proud to be LGBTQ or an ally, and June, aka National LGBTQ Pride Month, is the perfect time to share that pride with the kids in your life. Children, after all, are the future of the world (cue adorable, cheesy song here), and don’t you want that future to be filled with accepting, tolerant and loving human beings?”
- 32 LGBTQ Children’s Books (from No Time for Flash Cards): “Two-dad and two-mom families are a fact, transgender children and adults are real, and all LGBTQ individuals and their families deserve to be represented, celebrated and included in all parts of life, including school and home bookshelves.”
A number of books have been released more recently on the topic and haven’t yet made these book lists, including personal favorites such as Neither by Airlie Anderson, Sparkle Boy by Lesléa Newman and Maria Mola, Love Is Love by Michael Genhart and Ken Min, and Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders and Steven Salerno. Be sure to seek out these and other titles, and share them with others to help spread awareness and keep the opportunity open for books like this to be published in the future.
From the Voices of LGBTQ Authors and Illustrators
Reading a wide variety of books is a great way to immerse yourself in any topic, but hearing firsthand from those who make the stories can have powerful impact. Here is a selection of interviews I’ve had with guests on The Children’s Book Podcast that give light to the inspiration and experiences behind some truly wonderful books.
- Lesléa Newman, author of Heather Has Two Mommies, and Marcus Ewert, author of 10,000 Dresses, talk about books with LGBT themes, the lineage of the poetic, prophetic voice, respecting the power of the words, and the only cat to ever have an obituary in the New York Times.
- J. Austrian and Mike Curato, the author and illustrator respectively of Worm Loves Worm, talk about Pants-of-the-Month, having conversations with children through children’s books and the impact of two worms falling in love.
- Tillie Walden, cartoonist of Spinning, talks about creating love and empathy with other people, the strong feeling of not wanting to be in fear of your own story and the difficulty of defining coming out in any universal way.
- Lee Wind is the author of Queer as a Five Dollar Bill, a novel for teens about a boy named Wyatt, some little known research about our 16th president and a social media post that goes viral. In this conversation, Lee talks about his Kickstarter campaign for the book, a decision he made after the publisher that previously acquired his manuscript dropped the book just a few months prior to production. Lee also talks openly about being a gay man who struggled throughout much of his teens and twenties to be authentic to himself and, more importantly, to love himself.
I reached out to a number of friends as I was working on this blog post in order to see what resources they recommended specifically for teachers interested in introducing or expanding the presence of LGBTQ-positive lessons into their curriculum. Among the numerous resources recommended, two stuck out to me.
The first is the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN). GLSEN’s mission is “to create safe and affirming schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” This organization has been a champion of LGBTQ issues in K–12 education since 1990, and their blog alone is reason to follow them regularly. But what really impressed me was their willingness to work hand-in-hand with educators, schools and school systems who reach out to them. Take time to explore the site and find where your school fits and how GSLEN might support you and your colleagues.
The next is University of Southern California’s LGBT Resource Center, which provides resources intended for use in higher education, but much of the material can be adapted for use in middle or high school. What I like about the educational activities is that they are ready-to-use games, trivia, icebreakers and scenarios meant to foster an environment of open and respectful communication. These tools can serve as excellent conversation starters.
The bottom line is that June is a month to celebrate with pride — pride in who we are, in our stories and in our value in this world. This is not a time for shame or fear. It is a time for affirming the beautiful way we were made and for affirming the beauty in one another, as an LGBTQ individual or as an ally. Taking pride in ourselves and others makes us stronger, more tolerant and more loving; in turn, it makes the world so as well.
Connect With Us Online
Do you incorporate LGBTQ-positive books or practices in your lessons with students? Are there LGBTQ-postive resources you think others should know about? Be sure to let us know in the comments below or by connecting with us on Twitter at @MatthewWinner and @demco. We’d love to spread the word about the pride you share throughout Pride Month in June and throughout the year!