Last week The Carillon, the southeastern Manitoba newspaper where I work as a columnist, reported the Hanover School Board had said no to a request from a parent to include discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation in younger grades. The parent voiced her concerns because her child was being bullied at school for having two mothers. She proposed that more open discussions in younger grades about things like families with same sex marriage partners, might help change the attitudes that led to the bullying. The school board decided to continue their policy of saving such discussions for high school classrooms where they are part of the mandated provincial curriculum.
This means parents in the school division who want their young children to be accepting of a diversity of family arrangements, gender identities and lifestyle choices, will need to teach their kids those values at home. Luckily there are plenty of great books that can act as helpful resources for parents.
The Pilgrims is a group of people in my church who meet regularly to explore how our faith community can respond supportively to the spiritual pilgrimage of LGBTQ people. Since I am our church librarian a group member approached me recently wondering if I might be open to having them donate some books for children to the church library. These were stories that introduced the idea that all people are unique and make different life style choices, and that all families are unique and some include two mothers or two fathers. I said I would be happy to have these books in our church library. The request sent me off on a search of my own and here are some good books I found that parents of young children might want to consider.
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino is about a little boy who loves to wear a dress from the classroom’s dress up box. His friends say he isn’t welcome in the space ship they are building because astronauts don’t wear dresses.
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell is a true story about a pair of male penguins in the Central Park Zoo who adopt an unwanted baby penguin and provide a loving caring family for it.
The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman has colorful illustrations that depict every kind of family; single parent, two parent, blended, multi-cultural, multi-racial and families headed by same sex couples and grandparents.
Annie’s Plaid Shirt by Stacy Davids and Rachael Balsaitis is about a girl who loves her plaid shirt and is upset when her mother says she can’t wear it to her uncle’s wedding and must wear a dress instead.
These are just a few of the books available for young children. There are also many well-written novels for upper elementary and junior high kids that address gender identity, life style choice and same -sex marriage in thoughtful ways.
In a Carillon editorial last week the Hanover School Division was characterized as “doing nothing to advance a more compassionate response to discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity.” Parents however can help their children have just such a compassionate response by sharing with them some of the great books for kids that celebrate and explain diversity.