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Weekly Reads: Nearly Halloween Edition

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Happy almost-halloween, everyone! This week on Weekly Reads we have links to trans friendly children’s literature (for reading , not burning), and some trick or treats for Halloween.

Let’s start this week with some LGBTQ friendly booklists. We posted a news story on our Facebook page this week about a man who checked books out of his local library in order to rail against them and burn them in a Facebook live video (sidenote: apparently every book with Ozma of Oz gets a big ol’ pass from this guy, 100 year old transgender characters don’t count I guess)

Anyway, this prompted shocked comments that there was even a need to be LGBTQ friendly books for children. So, this week, let’s check out some good reads on why representation matters. From Pride.com:

“nearly 6 million adults and children have an LGBT parent. There are more than 125,000 same-sex couple households with nearly 220,000 children under the age 18. These children go to school and are active members of their communities. Their identities and home life deserve to be portrayed and represented just as much as anyone else’s. . . LGBT people make up a large portion of the U.S. population and should not be excluded. And exclusion doesn’t threaten just one race or group of people — it is a threat to all races and all people.”

Also, things are worsening out there for our LGBTQ youth according to a recent post in Psychology Today:

this is the first year [since 1999] that there hasn’t been a continual reduction in incidences of homophobic and transphobic harassment. In fact, there has been an increase in some forms of anti-LGBTQ bias in schools. This reflects what many educators and students have been reporting in the wake of the Trump election which is an increase in acts of intimidation, bias, and violence at school (Rogers et al 2017), which some groups have called the #TrumpEffect (Southern Poverty Law Center, 2016).

Positive representation in literature is one way to counter the bias these kids experience elsewhere in their lives. But that representation needs to be more accurately reflective of minority groups too, and Psychology Today tackles why:

“There is another side to visibility, which is that when any minority group is represented in such a large format, the way in which they are portrayed carries “burden of representation”, and runs the risk of reinforcing stereotypes about a specific group, especially if only minimal variations of that group are portrayed. For instance, if most LGBTQ characters that are represented in the media are played by white actors, this drastically misrepresents the true racial makeup of the community, and can leave LGBTQ people of color to be rendered invisible by society.”

illustration from the children's book Julian is a Mermaid, a young boy in a long white skirt and green and red headdress walks hand in hand with his grandma
Illustration from Julian is a Mermaid

Edutopia has a short list of ways to make your kids’ literature more inclusive. It’s written for teachers but works for parents too, and the librarians over at School Library Journal are having none of this censorship nonsense:

“It’s important that we stand up, that we demonstrate courage within our communities for the values that define us as librarians,” [OIF director James LaRue] says. “But it’s also the case that we don’t have to be strident about it. We’re not doing this to irritate people. We’re doing this to celebrate human diversity.”

While we’re at it, here are some children’s books you can add to your child’s library or donate to your local library:

Do you have a book you love? Add it in the comments! And hey, if you teach, you should probably check out this link too about using inclusive texts in the classroom.

Halloween is Coming

Whiteboard with writing on it saying that children from other neighborhoods are not welcome at this house.Halloween is coming soon, are your kids going to another neighborhood to trick or treat, or staying nearby? The photo of a hand-written sign about kids coming into a neighborhood to trick or treat is making the rounds again this year. I’m not sure whether it’s just trolling or not, but generally speaking, there are lots of reasons why having an attitude about people coming into the neighborhood to trick or treat is classist and makes you a jerk. Jeff Rouner over at the Houston Press points out:

Halloween is literally a handout. That’s all that it is. Trying to mold it into some Randian cosplay contest for the privileged of your tribe so that randos with a beef against the Welfare State can exercise a modicum of power over other people’s children is cruelty almost magnificent in its pettiness.

There are a ton of reasons to take kids to another neighborhood:

  • you live in the middle of nowhere (If I’d gone trick or treating in my own neighborhood as a kid in the rural midwest, I’d have had to go nearly a mile to get to 5 houses, which is a terrible return on investment)
  • you don’t have sidewalks on your street
  • you live in an apartment
  • it’s safer than your own neighborhood
  • the candy is better
  • you have family/friends in the other neighborhood
  • you just want to

Though when it comes to being jerks about halloween, a few cities in Hampton Roads Virginia codify it. They were in the news this week for ordinances forbidding teenage trick or treaters. The ordinance in Chesapeake fines kids $25-$100 or puts them in jail for up to 6 months for having the audacity to trick or treat. Jimmy Kimmel mocked it, and websites such Let Grow roasted it, saying “The time frame gets shorter as the regulations grow, all seemingly based on the idea that anyone above age 13 is a potential hooligan, anyone under age 13 is a potential victim, and any semblance of fun must be thrown out faster than a slightly tampered Snickers bar.”

Laws like this speak to the weird way our culture looks at teens with suspicion and treats them as if they are simultaneously too childish to make their own decisions and too adult to do the fun stuff of childhood.

Generally speaking there are all sorts of reasons these rules are flawed (don’t get me started on how ableist policies are that set an age limit for trick or treating), and it’s a good time of year to trot out this post from four years about teens trick or treating:

“A year earlier, for the first time, my son gave out candy instead of trick-or-treating. It was an OK experience, but not worth repeating. It’s much more fun to go trick-or-treating with a bunch of guys and if the neighbors are grumpy, it’s easier to laugh things off when you’re in a crowd. So here’s what I can pass on, if you don’t have your own 15-year-old boy.

When a crowd of under-costumed teens shows up on your doorstep, welcome them. It’s a big group because they find strength in numbers. They’re not wearing costumes because they didn’t realize that they’d want to go — nor how badly.

Give them big bars. Don’t tell them they’re too old. They already know that.”

Speaking of of age appropriate halloween behavior, the Clay Center has a nice run down of what’s developmentally appropriate level of scare by age. Your mileage may vary, but it makes for a good general guide. Their advice for toddlers is, unsurprisingly to minimize the scare, but as the kids get older, it’s all about respecting their limits and providing support. Here’s their advice for school age kids:

  • School-aged kids are more likely to embrace the scares, but you should still check in with your grade school children before they embark on an outing with friends to something like a haunted amusement park. Talk to your child in private, away from friends, and even away from siblings. Make sure that he or she isn’t going under duress. If your child doesn’t want to go to the haunted whatever-it-be, then you can offer to help him or her “save face” by manufacturing a family excuse. Your child can always meet up with pals later.

And that’s it. Have a happy final week of October, and happy trick or treating.

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