I just put my 8 year old daughter to bed & I need to brag on her a bit, plus let you know about the great book we read and discussed.
I'm working on a program for "Banned Books Week," which many libraries observe every year at the end of September. My research tells me that top of the list the past three years or so is a picture book called And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. So I checked it out and when my daughter saw it today with its three adorable penguins on the cover, she picked it up and started to read. I asked her to wait so I could read it with her at bedtime.
Spoiler alert - I'm gonna tell the whole story in this next paragraph.
It's based on an actual event involving two male chinstrap penguins in the Central Park Zoo. The penguin keeper notices that the two have become a couple, have built a nest, and are trying together to hatch a rock, having been unsuccessful at laying an egg! When a spare egg becomes available, the keeper slips it into their nest. They tend it and hatch it and raise a baby girl penguin, which the keeper names "Tango," because it takes two to make a tango.
My daughter wanted to know why this book has been banned so often. I asked if she knew what a homosexual is - no. So I explained. I said that some people are attracted to their own gender, so instead of a man and woman falling in love it might be a man and a man or a woman and a woman. Then I said that some religions think it's wrong to be homosexual; they think God doesn't like homosexuality.
Her reaction: "If God created it, why wouldn't he like it?"
I explained that some people don't understand that homosexuality is built-in, rather than a choice.
There is some criticism of this book based on the idea that it describes an anomalous situation, not a natural one, since the penguins are in a zoo. Also, in real life one of the penguin daddies switched teams later and hooked up with a female! This is supposed to somehow invalidate the message of the book. These critics seem to expect that the book should offer sound scientific evidence that homosexuality is natural. They are missing the point! It's a love story, not a science text book.
My daughter was totally charmed by this story, as was I. It opened up her interest and allowed for a teaching moment about what homosexuality is. Look how easily she blew past the religious reasoning against it! We also discussed gay marriage and she seemed a bit shocked and incensed to discover that it isn't allowed in most states. She said "That's not fair!" and she thinks gay couples should all move to the good states so they can get married.
I'll make a point of saying this: I just gave her the facts. Her opinions are her own. I think this goes to show that acceptance is natural, whereas hate must be taught.
And Tango Makes Three is a great book for kids who are adopted, or kids who are in any kind of non-traditional family, or for anyone who likes penguins or love stories or love stories about penguins, or for any parent who wants to introduce their kids to the concept of homosexuality the right way before the local yahoos on the playground do it with pejoratives, ignorance, and prejudice.