by Rev. Sara Lewis
One of the latest fronts in what some like to call “the culture wars” has been an effort to control what can go onto children’s bookshelves in schools and libraries. The American Library Association reported 729 challenges to school, library, and university materials in 2021, and most were targeted at black or LGBTQ authors or books. It’s just as bad so far in 2022, so bad in fact that LeVar Burton (beloved host of the old “Reading Rainbow” show) made a video about it.
I am incredibly troubled by these attempts to control the narrative that children experience. Banning books, particularly LGBTQ books, because they are “sexually explicit” or “controversial” is all part of maintaining heteronormativity and cisnormativity. In other words, being heterosexual or cisgendered is “normal” and can go without comment, but being otherwise is deemed too controversial to be depicted or discussed. Some argue that children are too young for these topics, but I disagree completely: children are never too young to start learning about gender norms (in fact hetero- and cis-normative culture starts with the gender norms before children are even born!) and children are never too young to learn about the many loving relationships and family structures that come together to make families.
So as we celebrate Pride Month, we’re going to be setting out as many diverse books celebrating beloved and welcoming community as we can, as we launch our Summer Rainbow Readers children’s program.
Each Sunday this summer, children are welcome in the Spirit Play classroom during worship for Storytime, their own independent reading, and/or making art. They can also earn prizes by reading books on their own, whether or not they attend the Sunday class. Just read 10 books, fill out the form, bring it back to church and pick out your prize. Book List forms can be picked up on Sundays in the Spirit Play classroom.
Reading is a wonderful way to learn about the world around us and the lives of others who are different than you. It’s important for children to see themselves reflected back, but also to see the whole rainbow of possibility as well. If you have any children in your life, here are some recommended books for them to explore: