UK-based LGBTI rights group Stonewall has reinforced the need for LGBTI-themed books for children.
The group says that books highlighting LGBTI issues are essential for LGBTI youths exploring their sexuality and gender identity.
The group made the statement at a time when LGBTI themed children’s books have faced considerable opposition in numerous countries, including the US and Canada.
Sidonie Bertrand-Shelton, Stonewall’s head of education programmes, said that including LGBTI themes in children’s books is not only important for the development of LGBTI youths but in ‘[helping] all pupils develop an understanding of difference,’ the Guardian reports.
‘Celebrating difference is an important step toward building inclusive learning environments where all young people can be supported to reach their full potential,’ Bertrand-Shelton added.
‘[This] makes representations of LGBT people in books and education materials vital for young people who might be questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.’
A 2017 School Report by Stonewall found that only 20% of LGBT students had been taught about same-sex relationships at school.
The report also found that 77% had not learned about trans people or gender identity.
Stonewall’s statement comes after a Catholic school board in Canada earlier this week removed an acclaimed graphic novel which includes two boys kissing.
The Ottawa Catholic School Board said the book’s removal was ‘not necessarily’ because of the LGBTI content, but for ‘the actual relationship content … It is not a book we really need younger kids reading without guidance.’
However, the book was reinstated into primary schools following protests over the decision.
This week also saw a group of parents in Kansas protesting to have books with transgender content removed from school shelves.
The group claimed that a book such as I Am Jazz contained a ‘sexual revolution agenda, indoctrination of children’.
Other high-profile instances have seen disputes over LGBTI themed books throughout the world.
Last year in Hong Kong, the Sexual Orientation Ordinance Concern Group successfully lobbied to have a number of LGBTI themed children’s books removed from the shelves of public libraries.
The group – which claim they have no political or religious affiliations – said they were concerned that LGBTI inclusive content in schools might lead to ‘alternate brainwashing education’.
The removal of the books met with a number of protests calling for their reinstatement.
Singapore has also seen the controversial removal of LGBTI themed books from public spaces.
In 2015, public libraries removed the book And Tango Makes Three, a story about a same-sex penguin couple raising a chick, from the children’s section.
LGBTI rights in Singapore remain a contentious issue. LGBTI rights activists often meet with considerable opposition from both political and religious groups, and male homosexual sex is still criminalized in the city-state.