Monday, August 4, 2014

On LGBT Literature for Kids, Reading Choice and Libraries

I remembered last year when I gave a lecture in Teacher Portia's Chidlren's Lit class at the UP Diliman, Reading Department, I was asked how I feel about books that tackle gender differences and unique family dynamics. I know the question was really all about the changing family arrangement of Filipino families today like parents working abroad and same sex parenting. At the time, two new books for children that deals with same sex parenting and homosexuality were published. One of the books was even launched during the 30th National Children's Book Day.

If my memory serves me right, I answered in the affirmative. Yes, I feel positive about these books because, alas, we get to read such themes and issues with more care and consideration. My own children come home talking about the experiences of their classmates growing up with grandparents and being raised by homosexual parents. This is the reality of the world that my own children are growing up in. If such themes and topics are written about in the form of literature that my children read, then it is an opportunity to talk and discuss this with them with the hope that, empathy and a better understanding of the gray areas that make us human will come to light. Not only do homosexuality, same sex relations and dysfunctional family exist in real life, it has a place in children's and young adult literature.

So I was pleased when Ang Ikaklit sa Aming Hardin by Bernadette Neri and Ang Bongang Bongang Batang Beki by Rhandee Garlitos were included in the Kids' Choice Award Top Ten Best Books. The Kids' Choice Award went to The Day of Darkness, but having these two books in the roster of the Top Ten Best Books tells us something about the books we want our kids to read and the choices our kids make on their reading.

For one, book creators need to be better at their craft. The quest to strive for higher goals and standards is a continuous process. As adults, we need to engage with our growing, young readers of the books they pick and read. The teenager or tweener may not open up to an adult on the books he or she is reading, but there are strategies to do so. More on this in a future post. Kids are more open to read about books that deal with complicated and controversial issues. I think we need to pay attention to this openness if we truly want to see the local children's industry grow and mature.

Lastly, I hope, with the effort of the PBBY and the NBDB spearheading the Kids' Choice Award, more children and teens are given the opportunity to join in the conversation. For this to happen, we need to strengthen the library system in the country. And that, my librarian friends is where we can take part.

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