Since January, we have been writing steadily about how books can help guide you through a time of more political and social activism. Obviously, books have always been a great way to understand the world around us, and open us up to new ideas and new people, places and experiences. And if all of history's banned books are any indication, lawmakers know this, too. In an effort to continue promoting "family values" (i.e. "bigotry") the latest book to be removed from school curriculum is Jacob's New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman.
In the book Jacob loves playing dress-up at school, even fighting with his friend Emily over who gets to be the princess in their games. But he is teased by some of the boys in his class for wearing "girl clothes." Their teacher explains to the class that clothing is about what makes each person comfortable (basically, clothes aren't gendered, people!) The story is meant to foster acceptance of gender non-conforming children. Sounds great, right? Well, not to many teachers at one of the largest public school districts in North Carolina.
Apparently, Jacob's Dress was set to be part of the first grade curriculum at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools until several educators complained. The book was going to be part of an annual lesson plan that deals with bullying and harassment during Child Abuse Prevention Month in April. The Charlotte Observer quotes Tami Fitzgerald of the NC Values Coalition as saying, “These lessons found in the Jacob’s New Dress and My Princess Boy and other transgender curriculum are not appropriate for any child whose parents support traditional family values.”
OK, where to start with our rage? Firstly, if you're looking for some more children's books about trans issues we've got you covered. Secondly, just because a boy decides that he would like to wear a dress, that does not necessarily mean that he is transgender. Clearly, Fitzgerald could have used that planned first grade lesson herself.
Now The Washington Post is reporting that Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall, which tells the story of a blue crayon mistakenly labeled as a red one, will replace Jacob's Dress. Since the crayon story is also about finding the courage to be your true self, we can't imagine NC lawmakers will be too thrilled about that choice, either. It seems that every time we start to make headway on including more diverse stories in the classroom, we take one step back. Here's hoping that more people keep standing up for these books...and that more people will keep writing them.