Reading sessions by drag queens to children in across the USA led to discussion for and against on Sunday. Why do libraries even want to invite drag queens to read? And how do children react to this in practice? “This is how you help children who feel they are different.”
Program makers of libraries have been responsible for organizing reading afternoons for years. Years ago some were first to invite (among others) drag queens as readers, after which other libraries followed.
“We have been organizing social inclusive book reading series for years,” An anonymous library director tells us. “In it we have stories read by people who, until recently, hardly saw themselves in books. By reading from the books they would have liked to see in their youth, you help children who feel they are different.”
For a long time, protagonists in children’s books were usually white, heterosexual and lived in a traditionally ‘normal’ family. “But we live in a diverse, multiform society,” explains the director. “Fortunately, you see that more and more in children’s books. And also in the library.”
What Are Drag Queens?
‘Drag’ is an art or entertainment form in which a man or woman dresses and make-up lavishly, for example with a glittery dress and large wig. It has nothing to do with sexuality. Not even with sexuality. Some drag queens are gay or bi, others are straight.
Children need to see that you can be different
A lot of research has been done into the great importance of more visibility for the group that does not belong to the majority or the ‘norm’. A majority of readers are happy that there is more diversity and variety in books, as is also the case in society itself.
“It is very good that children learn at a young age that they can be different,” says the director. “Books offer recognition. Books, and other art forms, hold up a mirror to children: you can be different from other children. And it offers children a window to the world: there are people who are different from you and that is not weird or crazy .”
Inclusive reading sessions have since been adopted by many libraries. Over the years, people with physical or mental disabilities came to read. People who speak in sign language and people with a bicultural background also came to read.
‘Children never complain about who reads’
“We never get complaints or criticism from the children,” In all her years as a library director, she has never met a single child who did not enjoy being read by anyone. “All our guests, including the drag queens, read very playfully, without any prejudice. They make it a party, no one takes offense. But at the same time it can be a very important moment for that one boy or girl that thinks: I also like to dress up or put on make-up or wear a wig.”
The library hardly ever receives complaints from parents either. “It is very striking how drag queens suddenly seem to be under a magnifying glass,” She sighs. “And I’ll repeat it again: children never pass judgment on who reads to them. Whether they have a disability or are dressed in drag. They always go home happy.”