As an adult my memory of childhood is pretty good. I remember events so far back it sometimes shocks myself – and with the most vivid of detail. One thing I clearly don’t remember is ever being told a story where anything LGBTQ+ was discussed. I don’t ever remember a story about a boy coming out of the closet, or a family with two moms (or two dads), a character who was transgender. In fact, the first time I read anything about “being gay” was when someone bought me the book called, “The Gay Man’s Health and Wellness Guide” in an effort to help me not contract HIV. Real nice, eh? Not the best read for a 17-year-old coming out of the closet. If literature that included these topics were presented to me would things have been different? You can bet your ass it would!
Early childhood education (ECE) is crucial for children’s development and critical thinking. One aspect of importance is learning about family. After all family is everything, right? There are many types of family compositions: mom/dad, two dads, two moms, single parents, grandparents, adoptive parents, step parents and more I am surely missing. When children are presented with stories that show these families, and theirs, it teaches acceptance, not just tolerance. One thing that binds each of these family units is love – and these children’s stories are about the love of family and of their importance.
Recently, I was tagged in a FaceBook post where 32 (random number) books that feature LGBTQ+ friendly subject matter were listed to be included on Public ECE reading shelves. Of course each educator would have to preview books for age-appropriate content. That goes without saying.
These were books that presented different family composition (i.e. same-sex parents), stories of coming out and most of all that we exist and are a part of everyday life. That’s 32 more books than existed when I was growing up. Oh, and how I longed for a book that showed someone like me.
It was only natural that I engaged the poster and, of course, discussed which of the books I already had in my library. Having these books will be so important for my children. I want them to see their family in a book. There’s something so powerful about that message. And of course they will know other family structures – they will know that their father’s have a mother and father. They will have friends with mothers and fathers, two dads, two moms among many more I’m certain.
However, one comment made mention that they would be upset if these books were read to their kids without them having the opportunity to discuss issues like this at home. They continued to share that they had a right to even have their children sit out from stories such as these, or better yet, just not include books about LGBTQ+ families as they don’t align with their religious beliefs, all while attending a public school. Hold up…Just stop…
While I understand there are families that may not fully understand or accept my family, but that is not my problem. My family is here and my family exists. And there are many, many families just like mine. This is why when children attend a public education system they should be presented with facts, not opinions, and allowed to form their own thoughts as they align, or otherwise, with what they’re taught at home. Books that depict other family units only show that they exist. It’s that simple. It’s actually no different than learning about the many religions of the world, the many cultures of the world and much more. It’s also why there are home, private and religious schools. If a family wants their children taught a certain way then by all means choose the best educational path for them. As a parent I wholeheartedly understand wanting the best for my children.
By not including these books as part of ECE you do a gross disservice to our youth. These books simply allows kids to see their families and for others to see families different from their own. It doesn’t take a parent’s right to instill their own beliefs and morals. It just presents other family structures. And for my part as a parent I am glad that these books exist. It gives me much hope that the world my children will grow into adults may be a bit closer to truly accepting all people.