Good sto­ry­tellers — and role mod­els

Li­brary brings drag queens, kids to­gether for story hour to teach self-ac­cep­tance

The Province - - LIVE IT! - DEEPTI HAJELA

NEW YORK — It takes a cer­tain some­thing to be a good sto­ry­teller: en­thu­si­asm, tim­ing and a flair for the dra­matic. Per­form­ers at a chil­dren’s story hour at a New York City li­brary have all that and then some — they’re drag queens.

About once a month since last fall, the Brook­lyn Pub­lic Li­brary has been pre­sent­ing Drag Queen Story Hour, where per­form­ers with names such as Lil Miss Hot Mess and Ona Louise re­gale an au­di­ence of young chil­dren and their par­ents.

“Drag queens and chil­dren don’t usu­ally get to­gether, which I think is a shame and one of the ben­e­fits of a pro­gram like this,” Lil Miss Hot Mess said while putting on an out­fit that in­cluded a sil­ver se­quin dress with rain­bows, blue and sil­ver glit­ter eye­shadow and an enor­mous wig of curly blond hair. (The per­former’s le­gal name is not be­ing used be­cause of fears of ha­rass­ment.)

“It’s great that it teaches them self-ac­cep­tance in a very gen­eral way,” she said of the pro­gram, which got its start in San Fran­cisco.

At the most re­cent story hour, chil­dren rang­ing from in­fants to preschool­ers heard about Pene­lope the hippo, the main char­ac­ter in You’re Wear­ing THAT to School?! by Lynn Plourde, which ex­plores ideas of fit­ting in ver­sus stand­ing out. The chil­dren got up and danced and ended the ses­sion wear­ing paper crowns.

Kesa Huey and Sarah Baratti were among the par­ents who brought their chil­dren to the event.

“I think we’re just look­ing for ex­po­sure to pos­i­tive role mod­els in as many forms as pos­si­ble,” Huey said.

Baratti said she had taken her daugh­ter to a pre­vi­ous drag queen story hour, and when she asked the girl if she wanted to go again, it “didn’t take a lot of con­vinc­ing.”

Some­thing like this pro­gram “could be a re­ally pos­i­tive model for kids,” espe­cially since kids in the preschool age range are open to the idea of dress­ing up and fan­tasy, said Chris­tia Spears Brown, a pro­fes­sor of de­vel­op­men­tal psy­chol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Ken­tucky.

It “ul­ti­mately pro­vides chil­dren with a re­ally flex­i­ble model of gen­der,” Spears Brown said.

The re­sponse has been largely pos­i­tive, said Kat Sav­age, a chil­dren’s li­brar­ian with the Brook­lyn Pub­lic Li­brary.

And for those who don’t ap­prove? “We just tell peo­ple, ‘If it’s not for you, you don’t have to come,’ ” she said.


Lil Miss Hot Mess poses with a child af­ter reading to a group of chil­dren dur­ing Drag Queen Story Hour. ‘Drag queens and chil­dren don’t usu­ally get to­gether, which I think is a shame and one of the ben­e­fits of a pro­gram like this,’ says Lil Miss Hot Mess.

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