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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

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Gay/Lesbian Materials for Young Children

Prepared for Library and Information Science Course 516

By: Sarah Eccleston

University of Alberta

July 14, 2005


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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)


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Discussion Question #1:

  • Do you have any materials in your library or classroom that conform to these guidelines?


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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.


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Discussion Question #2: “Young Children”?

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?


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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


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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.”


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Discussion Question #3: or classroom?

Please reflect on the following question:

Do you know any same-sex parented families in your own school or school district?


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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


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Discussion Question #4: carrying gay/lesbian materials for young children in your library or classroom?

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?


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A Case Study: Surrey, B.C. School District carrying gay/lesbian materials for young children in your library or classroom?

  • 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.


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Case Study Continued… carrying gay/lesbian materials for young children in your library or classroom?

  • 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.


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Discussion Questions carrying gay/lesbian materials for young children in your library or classroom? #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?


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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


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Heather Has Two Mommies: A Foundational Work materials, but don’t know where to begin?Continued…

  • 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


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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


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Alyson Wonderland Publications materials, but don’t know where to begin?Continued…

  • 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


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Some Alyson Wonderland Titles: materials, but don’t know where to begin?

  • 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


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Discussion Question #7: materials, but don’t know where to begin?

Please reflect on the following question:

Have you read any of these or other Alyson Wonderland Books to yourself or your students?


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Some Other Publications to Consider: materials, but don’t know where to begin?

  • 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


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Some Other Publications to Consider: materials, but don’t know where to begin?

  • 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


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How Do I know These Are Quality Titles? materials, but don’t know where to begin?

***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.


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A Word On Canadian Resources materials, but don’t know where to begin?

  • 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


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Concluding Remarks materials, but don’t know where to begin?

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.


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References materials, but don’t know where to begin?

  • 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>


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References materials, but don’t know where to begin?

  • 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.


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