You may have seen on social media or on the news, arguments over a book called Grandad's Pride, and whether it is inappropriate for children. Many schools have removed the book from their shelves, but many others have added the book into their libraries to improve inclusion.
Here's all of the information that you need to cut through the arguments and misinformation, decide whether this book is right for your school or your children, and consider what it tells us about inclusion in 2023.
What is Grandad's Pride?
Grandad's Pride is the sequel to Grandad's Caravan by Harry Woodgate, published in June 2023. The award winning book introduces young children to the meaning and history of Pride, through a young girl, Molly, who gets the community together to bring Pride to her Grandad.
The illustrated book introduces the concept of Pride through a story of a community rallying around the Grandad and creating a community pride.
Is the story age appropriate?
The story is written for young children and introduces Pride through the lens of the young girl Molly. Many children go to Pride and this book attempts to replicate what they might see there. This includes a range of LGBT+ flags, outfits (which will be discussed next), and decorations.
There is nothing in the words of the story that is age inappropriate and if read to children, they would get a good idea of the purpose of Pride, how it celebrates difference, and brings joy to so many people. The actually story is heartwarming and promotes tolerance, respect and love. This book would be a good platform to talk about kindness, respect and valuing differences in the world.
Are the pictures age appropriate?
This is where things get complicated. The illustrator has made a concerted effort to ensure that the pictures are reflective of actual Pride events. The pictures are bright, colourful, and show a wide range of cultures, family types and other forms of diversity.
The debates have begun because of images like this:
This man can clearly be seen wearing bondage gear. Now, I have never seen someone wearing this gear in a Pride parade, but many have. The discussion of whether this is appropriate in a pride parade is a conversation for another time; the discussion here is whether these pictures should be in a children's book.
The main criticism of the images is based around the issue of children seeing adult sexual fetishwear, which could in theory lead to the sexualisation of children. We have a duty of care to ensure that children are not exposed to indecent images and inclusion and diversity cannot be used as an excuse for this.
However, others would argue that children won't know that this gear is, and so they will look at it as a costume or funny clothing. The question here is whether we are putting an adult interpretation on what children see.
Unfortunately, like many LGBT+ issues at present, the discussion has become toxic and some people are using it as a reason to attack the LGBT+ community, individuals, and schools, accusing them of supporting the sexualisation of children and even normalising paedophilia.
There have even been increasingly stretched interpretations such as a box of dog toys (there is a dog in the book) representing the human pups fetish. This opinion is far more difficult to align with and is based on quite an extreme interpretation.
Even more obtuse is accusations that this picture of a map, represents Minor Attracted Persons (paedophiles).
There has been no official response on the images, and it's not surprising. If there had been healthy debate around the pictures, we perhaps would have got an answer about the inclusion of the images, but as the commentary has descended into accusations of paedophilia and grooming (as increasingly any discussion on LGBT+ inclusion does), we're unlikely to get an official answer from the author or publisher.
What should schools and parents do?
As with any book in a school library or our children's collection, we should know what every page contains and be aware of the content. The overall messaging of the book is of inclusion and diversity, and would leave children with a positive view of pride and the LGBT+ community. Schools and parents need to make their own decision on whether they deem the book appropriate, and know why they're including the book in their library. But as with any other area of inclusion, they need to ensure that if they use the book, they're aware of the online accusations.
What does this tell us about LGBT+ inclusion in 2023?
Age appropriate inclusion is essential in schools to challenge bullying and support the mental health of our LGBT+ young people. We have taken huge strides in understanding how books and role models can support inclusion and as a society we have increased the number of books in school and home that include LGBT+ representation. But we are at a challenging point for the LGBT+ community, where increasing levels of violence, LGBTphobia, and increasing accusation of paedophilic agendas have made social media a toxic place for LGBT+ people and allies.
My hope is that schools and parents don't revert back to no LGBT+ inclusion, but the situation we find ourselves in means that we just need to be exactly sure what books we use, and why we have them in our book collections.