On February 28, thousands of parents, educators and allies will join in solidarity with transgender and gender-expansive students by hosting school and community readings of I Am Jazz, a children’s book by transgender teen trailblazer Jazz Jennings, as well as additional titles. Following a year of cruel attacks on the rights and dignity of transgender young people -- including the Trump-Pence administration’s attempt to erase transgender people from federal civil rights laws -- the day of readings helps foster safe and welcoming schools and communities for young people who still rarely hear affirming stories of LGBTQ people.
The fourth annual Jazz and Friends National Day of School and Community Readings is sponsored by the Welcoming Schools Program at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, and the National Educational Association (NEA), the country’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3 million educators across the U.S. This year, participants will have the option of reading from several books about transgender and gender-expansive youth of color, including Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love and They She He Me: Free to Be! by Maya and Matthew Smith Gonzalez.
“Transgender and non-binary youth are part of classrooms all across this country and deserve to see their stories reflected in their schools and communities,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “I Am Jazz is a joyful book loved by children of all identities and it serves as a powerful tool for educators, parents and anyone who wants to lead with love during these challenging times. The readings that will take place across the country send a powerful message of support to transgender youth and their allies.”
“Every child in America has the fundamental right to feel safe, welcomed, and valued in our nation’s public schools,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “As educators, by standing with transgender and non-binary students on Jazz and Friends National Day of School and Community Readers, we are sending a powerful message of inclusion, love and support. Now more than ever, we need to do what is right for our most vulnerable students and continue to strive towards becoming more acceptable and protective in light of the efforts by the Trump administration to threaten and marginalize them.”
The international day of readings was inspired by the more than 600 residents of tiny Mount Horeb, Wis., who unequivocally rebuked bigotry and censorship in 2015 by showing up at a public reading of I Am Jazz. A caring parent organized the reading after legal threats by an anti-LGBTQ hate group forced a local school to cancel plans to support a transgender student by reading the book in class.
Days later, the Mount Horeb school board adopted inclusive measures fully accommodating transgender students. Said one board member: “We will not be intimidated, and we will teach tolerance and will be accepting to everyone.”
HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools is the nation’s premier resource for professional development tools, lessons and resources that help elementary schools across the nation embrace family diversity and LGBTQ inclusion, prevent bias-based bullying and gender stereotyping, and support transgender and gender-expansive students. HRC’s Welcoming Schools has created this guide to help organizers of Jazz and Friends reading events build more affirming and supportive spaces for transgender and gender-expansive youth across the country.
For more information on the Jazz and Friends National Day of School and Community Readings, visit hrc.im/jazzandfriends.