ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s hoped it will encourage kids to read, but at the very least it may inspire their sense of fashion and inclusion.
On Saturday the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Libraries will follow the lead of libraries around the country and offer its first “Drag Queen Storytime,” in which men dressed in drag will read stories to children.
The event listing on the library’s web page says it will feature “books, songs, and lots of fun” while celebrating “acceptance in all its forms.”
Dean Smith, director of the public library system said the event is being held in conjunction with June Pride Month. The books are geared for ages 3-7, and among the titles likely to be read are: “Kindness Makes the World Go Round,” “We’re All Wonders,” and “Celebrate You.”
“I think kids will definitely get the idea of inclusion because that’s the theme of the books to be read, and the parents who bring their kids want these children to be aware of differences, inclusion and empathy,” Smith said.
Acceptance has been more difficult in smaller and rural communities among the libraries around the country where this reading program has been introduced, Smith noted.
Marcus Montoya, in drag as Vanessa Patricks, will be one of the presenters reading on Saturday. “It’s extremely important to let kids know that it’s OK to be different and express themselves in ways that are outside of what society has said in the past is normal,” he said.
Whether “Drag Queen Storytime” becomes a regular library event will depend on a review of public comments and attendance numbers, Smith said. Thus far the library has received more phone calls and emails from the public about this event than any other he’s seen in recent years – the majority of them positive, he added.
In addition, the Mayor’s Office and some city councilors have also received calls and emails, expressing positive and negative comments.
“There are people very concerned about this and think it is not appropriate, and people who are very excited and expressed an outpouring of thanks and support,” Smith said.
Shelle Sanchez, director of the city’s Cultural Services Department, which oversees the libraries, said the city was approached by Equality New Mexico, an LGBTQ advocacy group. “They reached out and wanted to do this in partnership with us,” she said. “Mostly, we want kids to come to the library and learn to read and love books, but we also want to make sure the LGBTQ community feels that the library is a place for them, and we want the community to know the library is there for everyone.”
About 5,000 programs are presented each year at the 18 public library branches, including movie, art and concert programs, computer classes, board game activities, story reading events and adult lectures.
“Drag Queen Storytime” is “just one of thousands of offerings each year,” Sanchez said. “If it resonates with people, they will come, and if it doesn’t, they won’t.”
Adrian Carver, executive director of Equality New Mexico, said “Drag Queen Storytime” “is an effort to make sure that we express New Mexico values of appreciating and celebrating diversity and difference.”
He said he was disappointed that those who were critical of the event were using children as “political pawns,” and were expressing “the same type of push-back that we saw in the civil rights movement in the 1960s to end segregation.”