Post submitted by Kimmie Fink, Welcoming Schools Consultant

As we mark Banned Books Week, HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools recognizes that some of the most repressed voices in literature are often those of LGBTQ people. We join librarians, teachers, publishers and authors in promoting the inclusion of diverse perspectives in books.

Banned Books Week was established in 1982 as a response to intensifying efforts to restrict the types of books available in schools and libraries across the country. Held every September, this event brings together community members and advocates who understand the dangers of censorship and the importance of free and open access to information.

Four of the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2017, compiled annually by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, feature LGBTQ characters.

Welcoming Schools is proud to recommend all four as books that support LGBTQ and gender inclusive schools:

“Drama” by Raina Telgemeier

This Stonewall Honor Award-winning graphic novel explores the on- and off-stage drama of a middle school play. It’s a coming-of-age story that examines boyfriend-girlfriend and boyfriend-boyfriend relationships among young people.

“George” by Alex Gino

This Lambda Literary Award-winner follows George, who has always known that she is a girl, on her quest to play Charlotte in the school production of Charlotte’s Web. She and her best friend Kelly hatch a plan to get George the role and show everyone once and for all who she really is.

“And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

An ALA Notable Children’s Book, this delightful picture book celebrates family diversity through the re-telling of a true story of s two male penguins at the New York’s Central Park Zoo who hatch and raise a chick together.

“I Am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings:

This autobiographical picture book is the real-life story of Jazz Jennings, a transgender girl who always felt she had “a girl’s brain in a boy’s body.” Jennings has since become an advocate and spokesperson for transgender youth everywhere. Welcoming Schools hosts an annual “I Am Jazz” School and Community Reading event across the U.S. in recognition of the first “I Am Jazz” reading in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. In 2015 when a school in the Mount Horeb area cancelled a reading of the children’s book after the notoriously anti-LGBTQ group Liberty Counsel threatened the school with legal action, parents, children and school staff came together and filled the Mount Horeb Public Library with nearly 600 people who gathered to show their support for transgender inclusion.

These books, and others like them, provide validation for students who have LGBTQ families, who identify as LGBTQ and who have emerging LGBTQ identities. It’s important that everyone have access to books that reflect diversity because they provide important windows into the lives of those whose experiences and identities are different from our own. This type of exposure lays the foundation for safe, respectful school climates where everyone feels included.

If you’d like to be part of combating efforts to silence stories, download Welcoming Schools’ lists of recommended books and buy one for your home, classroom or school library. Stay tuned to Welcoming Schools for more information about how to sign up to host an "I Am Jazz" Community Reading in your area on Feb. 28, 2019. You can also show your support on social media.

The right of students to read books providing diverse perspectives, is critical and worthy of the strongest of defenses.

HRC Foundation's Welcoming Schools is the nation's premier professional development program providing training and resources to elementary school educators to:

  • Welcome Diverse Families;
  • Create LGBTQ and Gender Inclusive Schools;
  • Prevent Bias-Based Bullying;
  • Support Transgender and Non-Binary Students.

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