A 28-page LGBTQ-themed ABC book has fired up controversy among the school board and parents.
In the working draft of Catherine Hernandez’s ABC Pride children’s book, M is for Mustache, the letter Q, she wrote, stands for “Quiet Down, which [we] will never do.” So it comes as no surprise that the 37-year-old is speaking out against what she calls “blatant homophobia” following thwarted attempts to read the book this month at some Toronto public schools.
M is for Mustache is a 28-page children’s picture book inspired by Hernandez’s daughter, Arden, and her experience at Pride, where she has been dubbed the “Tyke on a Bike for the Dyke March.” The book celebrates the importance of Pride for children and their chosen families.
Hernandez says that, in light of the book’s launch this month, she offered free readings to public schools in the city. She claims she was turned down by her daughter’s former school, Scarborough’s Charlottetown Junior Public School, after a vice-principal suggested there would be backlash from parents.
Though her daughter’s former kindergarten teacher was on board with the reading, the teacher claims there were rumblings that parents were already upset with the province’s updated sex-ed curriculum, and the reading would only stir up more issues.
The single mother then had the opportunity to read at Nelson Mandela Park Public School’s child-care centre (operated independently by George Brown College) and the school’s parenting and literacy centre on June 15. She says there has been backlash from parents and coordinators who felt the book wasn’t appropriate.
According to Hernandez, a coordinator at the literacy centre, who was not present at the time of the reading, said the reading “damaged trust she was trying to build with the community.”
Hernandez says she is scheduled to do a reading at the child care centre on July 20 after instructors “revisited the issue,” but there is still an ongoing review of the book.
“I feel like the Harper Lee of LGBTQ kids’ books,” Hernandez said.
Nelson Hillier, coordinator of the child-care centre, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Toronto District School Board spokesperson Ryan Bird, however, told Torontoist the refusal at Charlottetown was a result of timing, “given that it was getting close to the end of the school year, which is a very busy time.”
Bird also confirmed that there were “a limited number of concerns were raised by parents” from the literacy centre at Nelson Mandela Park PS.
Hernandez says she’s upset her readings have to be an issue, especially during the month of Pride. “Instructors need to be as progressive as the curriculums that are set out,” Hernandez said. “And as we step forward toward children having a sex-positive lifestyle as they grow toward adulthood, we need to be brave and have conversations about this. We have to be open to diversity.”