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McEntee: 'Author, author' — cheers to books that teach love, understanding

Published November 14, 2012 5:35 pm

Column • Writer at center of Davis dispute shows it's time to shelve prejudice.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

On Tuesday evening, I stopped by The King's English Bookshop to read a few more books by Patricia Polacco, author of In Our Mothers' House, now at the heart of a lawsuit against the Davis School District.

In all her books, Polacco's themes are about respecting others and understanding those who are different. There is a vast variance among humans, Polacco has said, and not knowing that leaves children unable to understand the world around them.

In Our Mothers' House decidedly is not about homosexuality, as one parent insisted in a letter to the district after the controversy erupted in May.

Rather, as in the other books I read Tuesday, it's about children who live in different circumstances and homes than others. It's about wise parents, relatives, friends and teachers whose love leads children into adulthood without fear and loathing of those different from them.

A Kaysville mother, Tina Weber, is suing the district, claiming her children's First Amendment rights were violated when a district committee voted to put the book behind a library counter and require written parental permission for children to read it.

Weber is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, with the backing of the Utah Library Association and a variety of gay-rights organizations. It bears reminding that the librarian who bought the book on behalf of a student with two mothers wanted what Polacco does — understanding and acceptance of those around us.

That theme echoes in Polacco's Thank You, Mr. Falker, a book about a bright child who has difficulty reading but masks that until fifth grade. That's when Mr. Falker arrives, sees the youngster's problem and helps her work around it and, finally, read.

Then there's the autobiographical The Art of Miss Chew, in which a student named Patricia also struggles with reading but is a blossoming artist. Again, her teacher helps her to read at the same time she celebrates Patricia's — and all her other students' — ability to bring color and light to canvas and silk.

Polacco's latest book is Bully, which might just be a useful addition to Davis school libraries.

Now, Polacco told me when the Davis issue boiled over that In Our Mothers' House never should have been put in the K-3 section; it belonged instead in the fourth grade and up shelves. There, she said, it could initiate crucial conversations between children and their parents about peoples' differences and how those kids can learn the concept of acceptance.

Chances are that someone in your family, friends, workplace and faith tradition is gay.

You may not know who but, statistically, it's a reality. I wrote once about a woman who'd lost her gay son to suicide and who shuddered every time someone said, "I loved him even though he was gay."

Those who protest that children ought not know about such differences are shortchanging their kids, who might have a loving aunt, doting grandpa or some cousins who do now, or one day will, recognize their true sexual nature.

Today, most young people just don't care who's gay and who's not. They're just friends, sisters, brothers, dads, moms, pastors, teachers, co-workers. That's the new reality — and the right one.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter: @pegmcentee.






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