By Clare Mulroy
This article was first published October 5, 2020 in Tagg Magazine here.
When Lisa Forman began to reflect on the lack of LGBTQ representation her queer daughter Rebecca had growing up, she asked herself a question: “What can I do to make a difference?”
It was that question that pushed her to create Pride and Less Prejudice (PLP) — a non-profit organization that raises money to donate books featuring LGBTQ characters to preschool through third grade classrooms. Since its creation in November 2019, PLP has received requests from 36 states.
A music therapist and a preschool teacher from Massachusetts, Forman understands the impact that early education has on children and the way they see the world. After her daughter came out as queer, Forman noticed she was drawn to LGBTQ storylines on TV.
“That seemed to make a huge difference for her, when she saw those people represented,” she explains. “It must be true for so many other kids out there — what a big hole it was in her childhood.”
In its origin, Forman gathered 14 books with LGBTQ representation to donate to classrooms with young children. She first reached out to friends that were teachers and her daughter utilized her connections from internships and Smith College. According to Forman, the books are “age appropriate” for preschool through third grade audiences.
“This is when they’re learning to discriminate, and we need to teach acceptance and inclusion and community,” she says. “From that very young age we need to normalize it.”
What “age appropriate” looks like is a variety of stories about acceptance and understanding, Forman says. There are books where LGBTQ issues are not the central storyline, like “A Plan for Pops,” a book about a child’s adventures with their two grandfathers. There are also history books like “Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution” which illustrates the story of the Stonewall Inn Riots and the start of the LGBTQ rights movement.
When PLP reached a point where they were getting more requests than they had donation money, the team launched a celebrity campaign to boost awareness.
The campaign, #ReadOutProud featured 13 celebrities from Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon to Hairspray actress Nikki Blonsky.
“If I would’ve had books with LGBTQ characters or themes in classrooms while I was growing up, I think maybe I would’ve felt a little bit at home maybe a little sooner,” Blonsky says in the video.
Noah’s Arc actor Darryl Stephens also contributed to the campaign. “Seeing characters whose experiences reflect our own affirms that our feelings are valid, and that we too, deserve to be loved,” Stephens explains.
The organization is hosting a professional development workshop with music educator Mia Ibrahim on October 12. “Combating Prejudice Perpetuated by Normativity: Creating an Inclusive Classroom Environment” will facilitate conversations around intersectionality and the perception of “normal.”
Forman and her team are determined to reach their goal of $10,000 and continue to donate books to classrooms across the country. More than that, they are confident in their ability to create a sustainable donation stream to pursue their mission of inclusivity in young classrooms.
“If I can’t change the minds of some people whose minds are already very set, let’s start with the new generation and see if we can start it out right,” says Forman.