Children’s Literature, LGBTQ+, and Church


Children’s Literature, LGBTQ+, and Church


5/14/2019



Children’s Literature, LGBTQ+, and Church

 
            I am preparing for a trip to visit my granddaughter on the east coast in the coming weeks and started to shop around and see what I might bring with me in my new role as the grandfather who spoils his grandchildren. On one of the websites I scan daily, mombian.com, there was a new book that made me smile: A Plan for Pops! by Heather Smith and Brooke Kerrigan. It is one of the first gay grandparent books that I’ve seen publicized, and also made me smile because my chosen “grandparent” name is “Pops.” My partner Christian has already chosen to be “Uncle Christian” to his nine nieces and nephews and twelve great-nieces and nephews, so together we are “Pops and Uncle Christian.” To say the least, I’m looking forward to reading the book with my granddaughter and will encourage her parents to read it too.  
 
            The power of storytelling to the young children in our lives—whether we are moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, or family of choice—in shaping the character of our children and the virtues that they will practice, cannot be emphasized enough. My former wife and I began reading aloud to our children when they were still in the womb.  One children’s literature author suggested that the first thing we should do with our children when they were just newly born was immediately place them on an open children’s book in the delivery room! In other words, it is never too early to read to our children. In the words and pictures presented to the child, the baby is learning about the small world in which the child lives, who is who and what is what, along with being immersed in the core belief systems of the family in which we were born. In other words, if we would like to see the next generation of church leaders and members to be more accepting of LGBTQ+ people, gender equality, be on the vanguard of racial justice, champion the work of caring for the earth, loving the least of these, and walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8), then read to yours and our children as soon as possible. 
 
            The importance of reading to our children and the “norms” that children’s literature presents was also emphasized this week in the news of the latest episode of the PBS show, “Arthur,” an animated series, which has been on for 22 seasons and a show I watched with my daughter and son on my lap. And yes, we had "Arthur" children's books in our home, too. On the latest episode, Mr. Ratburn, a third-grade teacher, marries another male character on the show! This cultural-cornerstone for the generation called “millennials,” cannot be emphasized enough, and celebrated.  In other words, LGBTQ+ characters as portrayed in a healthy fashion on children’s T.V. shows, books, movies, games, and website geared for young children, is doing the important work of teaching the next generation that being LGBTQ+ and straight is simply part of the wonderful world in which we live, and the fantastic body of Christ in which we know who and whose we are. If more parents had read these sorts of books earlier in life, and if these animated series followed these storylines, perhaps we wouldn’t be in such a mess as we are in the Church today in figuring this all out, and so behind where the rest of modern society is in acceptance of all people.
 
            So, a suggestion to church folks who read this blog: for your libraries at home, church libraries, children’s sermons resources, books to bring to the beach or the forest for a camping trip, books that can be brought up on lap tops and tablets, borrow or buy books that emphasize that being straight or LGBTQ+ is just part of life. My favorites include, And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell; Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman; King and King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland; and 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert. Feel free to add to this blog below, in the comment section, sharing your favorite children’s books that capture the life of LGBTQ+ and straight characters, that embrace a Gospel message of love one another as we have been first loved by God in Christ (John 13:35). That reminds me: time to order a few more books before I make the trip back east to see my daughter, son-in-law and grandchild! 


 


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Brett Webb-Mitchell

Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell is an openly gay Presbyterian pastor in the Portland area serving as the part-time LGBTQ+ advocacy coordinator for The Oregon-Idaho Conference of the UMC. He can be reached at brett@umoi.org. Become a subscriber to the Greater NW Pride blog to get Greater NW Pride in your email box!

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