Thursday, October 1, 2009

PFLAG Dayton's Rainbow Reading Program

Today's guest post comes from Kim Peters, Safe Schools Chair of the Dayton, OH chapter. The Dayton chapter has recently implemented a new safe schools project, the Rainbow Reading program.

PFLAG Dayton has officially kicked off our Rainbow Reading program. This is an exciting new program for us - we have a terrific history training adults to help sexual minority youth feel safe and welcome in school environments. To date 100% of our focus has been directed towards these trainings.

Last winter we decided to reach out to GLBTQ kids by placing books and information directly into school libraries or instructional media centers. We worked closely with a local, supportive school system to create our model program. We quickly learned it’s not as simple as just buying books and donating them. First we contacted the school board to get their support. They allowed us to contact the middle school principals who were our target for our first wave of donations. In the meantime a middle school librarian had volunteered to work with the Safe Schools committee – she had attended the PFLAG National Ohio state safe schools training hosted by the PFLAG Dayton chapter last fall. We spent a long summer researching and reading every fiction and non-fiction title we felt might be appropriate to donate.

The middle school principals happily agreed to review our books. In August they accepted 6 of the 9 titles we pitched. Additionally they have requested materials for their guidance counselors and for the administrative offices. They have also agreed to promote, to their teachers, the fact that the titles are now available. Both the central office administrators and the principals have agreed to allow us to develop curriculum designed to familiarize staff with GLBTQ titles, authors, etc. and to then allow us to donate age appropriate books to teachers who attend our continuing education sessions. We will be able to effectively reach out to kids in a classroom setting as well.

The second wave of our project is in full swing with the high school in this school system. Their library has an excellent selection of fiction but has very little non-fiction. We are currently working to develop and purchase a list of titles suitable for them.

Another exciting component to this project is the fact that we were “allowed” to promote our Youth First outreach program by placing stickers with logo and contact information in each of the books we donated. PFLAG’s Youth First group meets weekly to provide a social and supportive environment for GLBTQA youth in Dayton and surrounding communities. Additionally, the library staff recognizes that some of the titles would be likely to “disappear” from the collection if a student felt they really needed the book “permanently” to help them through difficult times. Staff has agreed to notify us and we will quietly replace the title.

Rainbow Reading is being featured at the OLEMA (Ohio Library Educational Media Association) statewide meeting in Columbus this October. We also were the beneficiary of proceeds generated by the Sunride Bikeathon organized by Club Aquarius, a bar and dance club famous for supporting GLBTQ causes in our community including PFLAG Dayton’s very own “When the Stars Come Out” scholarship fundraiser.


Jennifer Bryan said...

I'm curious about which books were accepted and which books were not and if the middle school principals offered a rationale for those they rejected. As the author of The Different Dragon, a children's book that depicts a two-mom family, I am always curious to hear what school districts are fighting to keep out of the classroom and why.

Thanks for initiating this great project.

Jennifer Bryan

Erin Williams said...

Hi, Jennifer. I contacted Kim Peters and here is what she had to say:

Thanks for your comment!

The following titles were accepted in our pilot, middle school program:

1. “The Dear One”
2. “Between Mom and Jo”
3. “Hear Us Out: Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress and Hope, 1950 to the Present”
4. “GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens”
5. “50 Ways to Support Lesbian and Gay Equality: The Complete Guide to Supporting Family, Friends, Neighbors or Yourself”
6. “When the Drama Club is Not Enough”
7. “Annie On My Mind”

The following titles were not accepted:

1. “Am I Blue?: Coming Out From the Silence
2. “Luna”
3. “Absolutely Positively Not”

The titles not accepted were deemed “not age appropriate”. If you find some “obvious” titles missing from our list above, it is likely the three buildings already had a copy in their collection. Our intent is to donate books based on the needs of each individual school or system. It’s best though, to find a “starting point”; books everyone would feel “comfortable” starting out. In this case books that have been eagerly accepted by a very conservative school system.

The high school in this same system has received some of the non-fiction titles above as well as “Stonewall” and “The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk”. We are seeking new titles dealing with current issues like DOMA, DADT, immigration, adoption, etc. New material is very difficult to come by – especially appropriate for high school age students.

It is much easier to place titles directly in the classroom. Supportive teachers are always looking for new books especially if they are free! All of our “inappropriate” books have found homes in wonderful classrooms with teachers that rock!

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