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Thursday, June 01, 2023

“Heather’s favorite number is two. She has two eyes, two hands and two knees. She has two pets: her dog, Midnight, and her cat, Gingersnap. Heather also has two mommies: Mama Jane and Mama Kate.”

So begins “Heather Has Two Mommies,” a children’s book about a girl named Heather; her mom, Jane, who gave birth to her after artificial insemination; and her mom’s same-sex partner, Kate.

With increased mainstream acceptance of homosexuality, the publication of similar books aimed at an audience of children aged 3 to 6 years old, books such as “ Tango Makes Three,” “The Different Dragon” and “Daddy’s Roommate,” have also increased.

And with the increase in popularity of these books comes a deeper divide between tolerant people and those who aren’t, said Linda Lamme, a professor in the School of Teaching and Learning at UF.

“Many churches preach against homosexuality, which causes their members to avoid gay people,” Lamme said, “causing segregation where it makes it virtually impossible for them to become educated on the subject.”

Some academics, librarians and teachers consider these books to be highly beneficial despite other libraries’ censoring of them.

“As parents, they have a right to choose what they read and what their children read,” said Debbie Lewis, librarian supervisor for the Youth Services Department at the Alachua County Headquarters Library in Gainesville. “But it’s not our job to limit access to material to children.”

Some libraries have the books on a shelf where only teachers have access to them.

“Reading is intended to expand children’s knowledge and to get them to think. Books about children with gay parents should be in every classroom because our classroom libraries should reflect all cultures.”

Lewis said The Alachua County Headquarters Library in Gainesville offers several such books.

“We are a public library, and we ascribe to the Freedom to Read policy from the American Library Association,” Lewis said. “We serve all members of our community, and we live in a diverse community.”

When the book came out 20 years ago, “Heather Has Two Mommies” was placed in the nonfiction section of the library, where books dealing with social issues are placed, she said. This year, for the book’s 20th anniversary, they moved it to the picture book section where most of the staff thought it belonged, she said.

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The library carries between 10 and 20 picture books dealing with homosexual characters or issues aimed at an audience aged 3 to 5 years old, including “And Tango Makes Three,” which, according to The American Library Association, is the most banned book of 2009.

Lewis said in her five years at the library it has had one or two challenges to the books every year.

“We feel it is important to have these in the collection because there are all kinds of families, and children need to see their own life experiences reflected in the literature they read,” Lewis said.

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