Amie Taylor shares her story behind creating an LGBTQI friendly children’s book

BY AMIE TAYLOR

This time last year, I was spending my days typing up stories of parade-loving princesses, homophobic unicorns and super-speed spells in my first book writing adventure. I had been pitching some LGBTQI picture books to publishers and agents for some time when Jessica Kingsley Publishers (JKP) got in touch; they had been looking for someone to write a workbook to be used in schools to support the teaching of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) relationships and gender identity. This hadn’t been the book I’d been planning on writing, but I’m so very glad they asked.

Earlier in the year, protests in Birmingham against the No Outsiders programme had made the national news. The protests gained momentum as religious leaders (of many faiths) and individuals unrelated to the school joined the crowds. There were complexities to these protests; the No Outsiders programme had links to the hugely problematic and discriminatory Prevent programme. Although this cannot and should not be ignored, as I watched the protests on the news, it was upsetting to hear a great deal of misinformation being spread around the lessons and what would be taught. I felt devastated that children who will grow up to be LGBTQI attending the school, and also those watching the news, would be hearing daily outpourings of hatred and vitriol directed at the LGBTQI community. Seeing their identities othered and publicly debated, would give the message that their sexuality and/or gender identity was in some way problematic and something to be hidden.

In creating The Big Book of LGBTQ+ Activities, I wanted to make something that would offer representation to rainbow families and to children that will grow up to be LGBTQI themselves. It was also hugely important to me to create something that any teacher could pick up, photocopy, read and share with their class without having any prior knowledge.

I realised that teachers are probably going to face more challenges over the next few years, as inclusive relationship and sex education (RSE) becomes compulsory from September 2020 (meaning schools must teach about LGBTQI relationships, as well as heterosexual ones).  I began thinking about what it may be like if you’re a teacher who’s not gay, trans or bisexual, and doesn’t have anyone in your inner circle who is; it could potentially be daunting having to teach about something you feel that you know very little about.

Even if you do have an awareness, or loved ones who fall into one or more of these categories, there may be a concern of getting it wrong or not knowing what is and isn’t okay to say… So I got to work, dreaming up stories with merpeople and anti-gravity jelly and back-to-front horses.

The book itself is a collection of stories, each tale with one or more characters that have an LGBTQI identity. The story is then followed by quizzes, worksheets, word-searches, drama activities, colouring and writing activities and some more in-depth explanation about LGBTQI identities – all illustrated by the incredible Liza Stevens.

It’s age appropriate, and most importantly – it’s fun! It’s got a section for adults at the back, and offers support in how to approach questions asked by children. Something that was hugely important to me was to include more voices than just my own in the book, for example featuring the voices of people who practice a faith felt vital. As an atheist myself, I can never, and would never speak from that view-point, but I know many who are both religious and belong to the LGBTQI community, and have found harmony between the two.

I really do hope this book will make a huge difference when inclusive RSE comes in to practice this September, and that we can support a new generation of LGBTQI people who grow up feeling accepted, proud and comfortable to be who they are.

The Big Book of LGBTQ+ Activities is for published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers on 21 August 2020, it’s suitable for 6-9 year olds and is available to pre-order now.

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