Gay/Lesbian Materials for Young Children Prepared for Library and Information Science Course 516 By: Sarah Eccleston University of Alberta July 14, 2005
What Are Gay/Lesbian Materials for Young Children? • Picture books published for young children with gay/lesbian content • Books bringing children with gay/lesbian parents to the forefront • Realistic tales about the experiences of children growing up with same-sex parents • Books that celebrate the normalcy of being gay/lesbian • Books that promote tolerance and acceptance for nontraditional families • Books that break heterosexual/normative stereotypes • Books that recognize all types of families, not just the typical mother-father archetype • Paraphrased from Cat Yampell’s 1999 article on Alyson Wonderland Publishing (Yampell, 1999)
Discussion Question #1: • Do you have any materials in your library or classroom that conform to these guidelines?
In Talking About Gay/Lesbian Materials, How do we Define “Young Children”? • “Young children” are children under the age of 12 • Gay/lesbian materials for children under the age of 12 are primarily picturebooks • After the age of 12, children can be considered “juvenile” or “teen” • In comparison to children’s literature/picture books, there is a more notable presence of adolescent gay/lesbian material in libraries • Most of this material is text-based (i.e. Young adult novels) • The focus of this seminar in on the “young children” category • There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding gay/lesbian materials for such a young age group • Many people are concerned that children under the age of 12 are simply too young to be exposed to the concept of same-sex parented families and the realities of LGBT people.
Discussion Question #2: Please reflect on the following question: Do you feel children under the age of 12 are too young to be exposed to gay/lesbian information? Why or why not?
Is it necessary to have gay/lesbian materials in my library or classroom? • Here are some interesting facts, as quoted from Gabrielle Bauer’s article “Pride and Joy”, published on http://www.todaysparent.com • Data from the 2001 Canadian census, the first to inquire about same-sex partnerships, found that 15% of the country’s 15,000 lesbian couples and 3% of its 19,000 gay male couples were living with children • A considerably larger number of Canadian children, between 100,000 and 900,000, have at least one gay or lesbian parent • While still viewed as exceptional in some parts of the country, same-sex parenting raises relatively few eyebrows in major Canadian cities • Adoption by same-sex couples has been legal in Canada since 2001
Is it necessary to have gay/lesbian materials in my library or classroom? • Here are some interesting facts, as quoted from Gabrielle Bauer’s article “Pride and Joy”, published on http://www.todaysparent.com • Birth certificates will now be filled out with the names of both same-sex parents • Fertility clinics now routinely accept gay and lesbian couples • Advances in reproductive technology, such as IVF (in-vitro fertilization) has yielded increasingly higher odds of conception for same-sex couples • The Canadian Psychological Association, a body representing 5,300 psychologists and psychology students across Canada, has stated that children raised by same-sex parents are no worse off psychologically than any other children raised by heterosexual parents “…the “gayby” boom is here to stay.”
Discussion Question #3: Please reflect on the following question: Do you know any same-sex parented families in your own school or school district?
What are some of the reasons that may prevent you from carrying gay/lesbian materials for young children in your library or classroom? • Lack of need: You may live in a monocultural or rural community with few, if any, gay or lesbian parented families • Religious reasons: You may be employed by a school board that has religious objections to gay and lesbian materials • Unsupportive administration: You may have an administration that personally objects to the use of gay and lesbian educational materials • Parental groups: Many school districts have powerful parental groups that seek to maintain the status quo and would rather not recognize the realities of lesbian and gay persons in their communities • Personal convictions: You may find lesbian or gay persons morally repugnant and conscientiously object to ordering or using lesbian and gay affirming resources in your classroom or library
Discussion Question #4: Please reflect on the following question: Has there ever been an objection, challenge or opposition to any of these kinds of materials in your library or classroom?
A Case Study: Surrey, B.C. School District • The following synopsis of events is taken from: The Calgary Herald newspaper, March 1, 2004, by Leanne Dohy and The Surrey, BC, Leader Newspaper, March 4, 2005 • In 1998, Surrey, B.C. Kindergarten teacher James Chamberlain attempted to read the storybooks Asha’s Mums and One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads to his class. • Both books dealt with the reality of same-sex parented families. • Some parents became inflamed and demanded that these two books, along with Belinda’s Bouquet, another story dealing with same-sex parenting, be removed from the classroom. • The Surrey Board of Education agreed to the request, citing “grammatical” failings as the reason for the banning.
Case Study Continued… • James Chamberlain and five others sued the Surrey Board of Education. • The Surrey Board of Education pursued the ban all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada, where they lost their case. • The Supreme Court of Canada agreed with the petitioners that the Board’s decision was based on religion, which is contrary to the B.C. School Act. • Costs were awarded to the petitioners, which meant the Surrey School Board would be required to pay the court costs of all parties involved. The school board appealed. • The court also ordered trustees to reconsider the use of the three books • As of March 2005, the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld the decision to hold the Surrey School Board financially liable for all court costs, which totaled $1.2 million dollars. Which works out to have cost tax payers $400,000 per banned book.
Discussion Questions #5 & #6: Please reflect on the following questions: Have you heard about the Surrey book banning case before? Do you think anyone truly won or lost in this case? Why or why not?
So you’d like to incorporate more gay/lesbian reading materials, but don’t know where to begin?Heather Has Two Mommies: A Foundational Work *information compiled from:Cat Yampell’s article on Alyson Wonderland Publishing and www.amazon.com Heather Has Two Mommies story by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Diane Souza, Alyson Publications, 10th Anniversary Edition (2000) • Reading Level: ages 4-8 • Was the first picturebook to openly deal with the fears, hopes and needs of a child with same-sex parents • Was originally self-published in 1989 • Is a simple and straightforward story of a little girl named Heather and her two lesbian mothers
Heather Has Two Mommies: A Foundational WorkContinued… • A firestorm of controversy ensued in the United States • It was attacked by the religious right, lambasted by Jesse Helms from the floor of the U.S. Senate, and stolen from library shelves • Thanks to support from booksellers, librarians, parents and children, it has sold over 35,000 copies worldwide • It also launched a minor industry in providing books for the children of gay and lesbian parents • In 2000, the book was edited and re-released by Alyson Publications, to reflect the needs of younger readers
So you’d like to incorporate more gay/lesbian reading materials, but don’t know where to begin?Alyson Wonderland Publications *information from Cat Yampell’s 1999 article in Bookbird • Alyson Wonderland Publishing was founded in 1980 • Was one of the first presses to deal exclusively with gay and lesbian literature • Publishs books for gays, lesbians and their children • The Alyson Wonderland imprint first appeared in 1990, featuring Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman, and Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
Alyson Wonderland PublicationsContinued… • While originally producing materials for teens and adults, the Wonderland imprint focuses mainly on young children • It also experiments with hardcovers, softcovers, full colour illustrations and black-and-white • In 1995, Alyson Wonderland was sold to Los Angeles based Liberation Publications, publisher of The Advocate, an American national gay and lesbian magazine
Some Alyson Wonderland Titles: • Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman, illus. by Diana Souza • Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite • The Duke Who Outlawed Jelly Beans and Other Stories by Johnny Valentine • One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads by Johnny Valentine • How Would You Feel if Your Dad Was Gay? by Anne Heron and Meredith Maran • A Boy’s Best Friend by Joan Alden, illus. with photos by Catherine Hopkins • Anna Day and the O-Ring by Elaine Wickens • Daddy’s Wedding by Michael Willhoite • Lucy Goes to the Country by Joseph Kennedy, illus. by John Canemaker
Discussion Question #7: Please reflect on the following question: Have you read any of these or other Alyson Wonderland Books to yourself or your students?
Some Other Publications to Consider: • Who’s in a family? By Robert Skutch • ABC A Family Alphabet Book by Bobbie Combs • Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden • All Families are Different by Sol Gordon • The Family Book by Todd Parr • Jack and Jim: Picture Book by Kitty Crowther • King & King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland • King & King & Family by Linda de Haan et. al. • How My Family Came to Be: Daddy, Pappa, and Me by Andrew R. Aldrich and Mike Motz • Celebrating Families by Rosmarie Hausherr
Some Other Publications to Consider: • Emma and Meesha My Boy: A Two Mom Story by Kaitlyn Considine • Mama Eat Ant, Yuck! By Barbara Lynn Edmonds • Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers, illus by Maria Frazee • The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption by Jean Davies Okimoto, et al. • 123 A Family Counting Book by Bobbie Combs, illus. by Danamarie Hosler • Asha’s Mums by Rosamund Elwin et al. • The Dragon and the Doctor by Barbara Danish • Is Your Family Like Mine by Lois Abramchik
How Do I know These Are Quality Titles? ***Look For Lambda Literary Award Winners*** • For 17 years, the Lambda Literary Awards have honoured the best in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) literature • Each year, thousands of nominations are received from across the United States • 5 nominees are chosen in each of the 22 categories • A panel of 74 judges, chosen to represent the diversity of the LGBT community, determine the final winner in each category • A complete list of finalists, as well as the winners dating back to 1988, can be viewed at: http://www.lambdalit.org/lammy.html • The Lambda Literary Awards are sponsored by the Lambda Literary Foundation • The Foundation is the only non-profit national organization dedicated to the recognition and promotion of gay and lesbian literature • The Lambda Literary Foundation is based in Washington, DC.
A Word On Canadian Resources • Because the overall market for gay/lesbian resources is so small, it may be difficult to locate Canadian-produced gay/lesbian materials • However, I was informed from Dr. Alvin Schrader that Ken Setterington, one of the authors of our class textbook, had recently published his own gay/lesbian picturebook • Mom & Mum Are Getting Married by Ken Setterington, illus. by Alice Priestly, is available in hardcover form from http://www.amazon.com
Concluding Remarks My goal for this virtual seminar was to inform, not to convince. I understand that this issue is a very contentious and difficult one for many teachers and librarians. If I have given you more to think about, or some resources that you could use in your practice, then I have succeeded.
References • Alyson Wonderland Publications. (2005). Alyson Wonderland Publications. Retrieved July 4, 2005, from <http://www.alyson.com/> • Amazon. (2005). Heather has two mommies. Retrieved July 5, 2005, from <http://www.amazon.com> • Bauer, G. (2005). Pride and Joy. Retrieved July 4, 2005, from <http://www.todaysparent.com/lifeasparent/parenting/article.jsp?content=20040803_165647_5176&page=1> • Clyde, Laurel A. and Lobban, Marjorie. (1996). Out of the closet and into the classroom: Homosexuality in books for young people (2nd edition ed.). Australia: ALIA Press. • Day, Frances Ann. (2001). Lesbian and gay voices: An annotated bibliography and guide to literature for children and young adults. Feminist Collections, 22(3/4), 42. • Dohy, L. (2004, March 1, 2004). School reading a hot-button topic: Libraries balance beliefs with curriculum needs. The Calgary Herald, p. B.2. • Lambda Literary Foundation. (2005). Lambda literary awards: Seventeenth annual lambda literary awards. Retrieved July 5, 2005, from <http://www.lambdalit.org/lammy.html>
References • Lane, D. (2002). The emergence of gay literature for young people. Young Adult Library Services, 1(1), 18-21. • Lobban, Marjorie and Clyde, Laurel A. (2002). A door half open: Young people's access to fiction related to homosexuality. School Libraries Worldwide, 7(2), 17. • Moore, Michele and Armstrong, Felicity (eds.). (2004). Action research for inclusive education: Changing places, changing practice, changing minds. London: Routledge. • Pink Triangle Services. (2005, July6, 2005). The Kelly McGinnis Library. Retrieved July 6, 2005, from <http://www.pinktriangle.org/pts_site/Eng/kelly-e.html> • Schrader, Alvin and Wells, Kristopher. (2005). Queer perspectives on social responsibility in Canadian schools and libraries: Analysis and resources. School Libraries in Canada: A Journal of the Canadian Association for School Libraries, 24(4). • Surrey must pay $1.2m same-sex books tab. (2005, March 4, 2005). The Leader, p. 3. • Yampell, C. (1999). Alyson Wonderland Publishing. Bookbird, 37(3), 31.