Education

Andover Public Library will keep transgender children’s books in the kids section

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify Marci Laffen’s position.

A Kansas public library will be keeping three children’s books with LGBT characters in the kids section.

The board of directors at the Andover Public Library voted 6-1 on Wednesday to keep children’s books “George,” “Lily and Dunkin” and “I am Jazz” shelved in the juvenile section. Board members said they received feedback on both sides of the issue from Andover residents and people from elsewhere.

The books contain elementary or middle school characters who happen to be transgender. Andover community member Marci Laffen had challenged the books.

Board members had said Laffen’s written challenge referred to the books as part of a “sexual revolution agenda, indoctrination of children.” She did not ask for the library to remove the books.

Rather, she wanted them moved to either the adult or young adult section. Her opposition to the books was in part because she said the material was beyond the cognitive ability of a young reader.

Wednesday’s meeting had little discussion before the board members voted. A January meeting saw about 55 attendees try to persuade the board on the issue. The board put off the vote for a month, in part to give its members time to read the three books.

At the January meeting, board member Cindy Pfieffer, a former school librarian, said they needed to be careful about moving books from their recommended section.

“What happens when you move books to different categories is they can get lost from their intended audience,” she said. “And ‘George’ is set in fourth or fifth grade. In my experience with middle school and high school kids, they will not read down. If you’re in sixth grade, you do not want to read about fourth-graders.”

People who said they were members of the transgender community and spoke at that meeting said addressing LGBT issues in children’s books can help some kids understand what they are experiencing.

“I am Jazz,” a picture book biography of a transgender child, is classified as juvenile nonfiction at the Andover Public Library. “George” and “Lily and Dunkin” are both classified as juvenile fiction at the library. Both are about transgender kids, one in fourth grade and one in eighth grade.

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