Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Drag Queen Story Hour Recap!

Drag Queen Story Hour
By Hannah Mermelstein

On Saturday, May 12, 2018 HVLA members and their children gathered at Caveat NYC with DOE librarians, teachers, and other friends for a fabulous Drag Queen Story Hour. Children ages 2-12 and their grownups sat enthralled as drag queen Lil’ Miss Hot Mess read stories and led us in song. 

She shared Sparkle Boy by LeslĂ©a Newman, which reminds us that sparkles can be for everyone; It’s Okay To Be Different by Todd Parr (the takeaway: it’s okay to eat mac & cheese in the bathtub!); and Neither by Airlie Anderson, about a little bunny-bird in search of a place to fit in.
Between books we stood up and sang songs that, as Lil’ Miss Hot Mess suggested, we could share with grandparents and neighbors and teachers who might not know what a drag queen is. A twist on a children’s classic had us all singing, “If you’re happy and you know it, shout ‘Yes, queen!’” A rendition of “The Wheels on the Bus” got us all dancing with the line, “The hips on the drag queen go swish swish swish...all through the town.”

The songs and stories were followed by a raffle; kids picked out the winning tickets as Lil’ Miss Hot Mess read out the numbers for prizes like book bundles from Macmillan Kids, Enchanted Lion, Reflection Press, Random House, First Second, and Feminist Press, and tote bags from Sez Me and Drag Queen Story Hour. Independent bookstore Greenlight Bookstore had a table full of gorgeous books for sale that celebrate gender diversity and acceptance.

After the stories were read and the prizes awarded, kids moved to tables where they used a host of art supplies—crayons and sparkles and glue sticks and googly eyes and pre-cut poofy colorful hair—to make paper bag drag queen puppets.
At the same time, grownups gathered for a panel with Lil’ Miss Hot Mess and three librarians/teachers who have brought Drag Queen Story Hour to their libraries: Gili Warsett, Brooklyn Friends librarian and HVLA VP; Lindsay Ferrone, first grade teacher at PS 63 Star Academy; and Kat Savage, BPL librarian. Panelists shared their experiences of organizing the event. Public libraries consistently see larger crowds for Drag Queen Story Hour than for regular story hours, so it’s clearly filling a void. Whether it’s a desire to support or participate in queer culture, or pure curiosity, people show up for this program.

Independent and public schools have had amazing success with Drag Queen Story Hour as well, but with occasional resistance from parents and teachers who fear their children might get confused (pro-tip: children are generally neither confused nor upset about gender diversity). The panelists shared advice on organizing the event: be prepared for questions. This means putting together materials about the program, showing how it clearly fits into the library’s and/or school’s mission statement, and equipping the administration with the tools needed to respond to any concerns. 

Lil’ Miss Hot Mess shared her own thoughts about the importance of the program. “If I had seen something like this as a kid,” she began, then added, “Well, I’m up here, so maybe things wouldn’t have been that much different.” The point is, it’s important. For queer kids, for gender-variant kids, for anyone who lives in a world with people who don’t quite conform (that’s all of us!). The event can be something as simple as a drag queen reading books, or it can be a more overt celebration of gender diversity. Regardless, it’s for young kids, and it’s not about sexuality. It’s about play, dress-up, performance, imagination, and creativity. And that’s what Saturday was for all of us in attendance: a delightful event with a light and playful tone, interspersed with positive messages of love and acceptance. Just like any other good story time, but with a dash of queer visibility.


  1. I had such a blast attending this, I can't wait to bring it to my school!

  2. Those are my boys, front and center! It was such a great event for kids and librarians alike.

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed myself! Looking forward to creating a family engagement event with DQSH...