A bookstore in Vermont is fighting back against calls to limit LGBTQ+ literature for young readers by hosting its first-ever Pride Readathon to raise funds for a summer camp for LGBTQ+ kids.
Bear Pond Books in Montpelier will be hosting a Pride Readathon the entire month of June where participants will raise funds for every LGBTQ+ book they read. Bear Pond Books has a goal of raising $40,000 to support Outright Vermont’s Camp Outright, a summer camp that lets LGBTQ+ kids be themselves while taking part in a typical group camp experience. A private donor has offered to match the funds raised up to $20,000 in the Pride Readathon. It’s also possible to simply donate in lieu of participating in the event.
Jess Turner of Bear Pond Books told local NBC affiliate WPTZ that readers will be able to create their own online public profile showing the books on their reading list as well as tracking their reading progress and the donations they’ve raised to date. So far, the bookstore has raised $1,580 of its $40,000 goal.
Turner said another goal of the Pride Readathon is to get folks to read books by LGBTQ+ authors or that include LGBTQ+ characters or themes.
“There’s no rule, you pick whatever number of books you want to read and you read whatever you want, as long as it celebrates an LGBTQ+ author’s voice,” Turner said. “So, graphic novels, memoirs, novels, fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, all the genres within that, anything goes.”
The library has put together a suggested list of LGBTQ+ books to aid participating readers. Recommended books on the list include Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan, I’m So (Not) Over You by Kosoko Jackson, and the modern classic Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe which was reportedly the most banned book in 2022. In March a local prosecutor in Michigan threatened a small town librarian with felony charges if the Lapeer District Library did not remove Gender Queerfrom the shelves.
Books have been targeted across the country for having queer or racial elements to them.
Camp Outright bills itself as a camp with a twist, providing a safe and affirming traditional summer camp environment for LGBTQ+ youth. Outright Vermont and the Common Ground Center are teaming up to offer two six-day, five-night residential camps for queer, trans, questioning, and allied youth between the ages of 13 and 17. Straight allies are welcome to attend as well.
“Probably the most positive experience I’ve had in my life was being at Camp,” one former camper was quoted on the Camp Outright website. “It was easy to just be there and exist, which we often can’t do at home or school. You can just go to camp and be gay and make friends, and that’s very nice.”
You can learn more about the Pride Readathon through the month of June at the Bear Bond Bookstore, including how to participate or donate, on their website (www.bearpondbook.com) or Outright Vermont (outrighttvt.com).