Literature options for all vital

To the Editor:

Imagine being a child in a public school, reading a curriculum that does not acknowledge your family or way of life.

The lack of representation in children’s literature may lead them to believe there is something wrong with their family, or that their family could never be as good as the ones in the dominant stories. Likewise, a child who feels they were placed in the wrong body at birth reads hundreds of books that center characters whose gender matches their sex at birth, leading them to feel unrecognized or excluded.

While these stories represent some, the American family largely doesn’t fit this traditional view anymore. Educators need to actively work to offer a diverse and inclusive classroom, whether that be regarding race, culture, and yes, the LGBTQ+ community.

Many educators are wary to bring up these topics in the classroom in fear of getting into politics. However, human dignity should not be considered political. Educators’ first duty is to ensure that children are safe and included in the classroom. By denying children an LGBTQ+ curriculum, educators are denying positive interactions with education, peers, and teachers. Teaching an inclusive education allows students with minority backgrounds to feel included, but also teach respect and acknowledgment of privilege to other students. This is where our education system has failed. Leaving LGBTQ+ history and voices out of the classroom will only continue the hatred and violence.

When children have two moms or two dads, they face questions and ridicule from their peers. A great introductory book to address children’s questions and reduce ridicule is titled, “What Does a Princess Look Like?” by Mark Loewen. This book shares the story of an average girl who likes ballerinas and princesses. The only thing that is different about her is that she has two dads instead of one.

With the recent news of the U.S. government withdrawing support of the ban on transgender people in the military and transgender women playing in female sports, transgender rights are being discussed more than ever.

Despite this, transgender representation and rights are still very limited in children’s literature. Children’s literature is already limited in terms of the LGBTQ+ community, but the representation is even lower for trans children. In an analysis posted to her blog, author Malinda Lo reported that 75 percent of the LGBTQ-inclusive literature published for young adults in the first decade of the 21st century had cisgender protagonists – characters whose gender identity and performance align with their sex assigned at birth.

Children deserve representation in their educational literature, so they are validated in their identity, as well as see that they are capable of anything. The children in our local school system are going to become adults who may be LGBTQ+ or know someone who is. By teaching and taking social action regarding LGBTQ+ literature and representation in the elementary classroom, the lives of children who may have not made it to adulthood otherwise will be saved.

Makayla Deel, Cullowhee