Milton Elementary School Librarian Read LGBT Books To First-Graders

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What kinds of books does the librarian at Tucker Elementary School in Milton read to young children?

Two weeks ago, librarian Joshua Coben read the following titles to first and third-grade students: William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow (1972); I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel (2014); and Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders (2018).

Unlike the other two selections, William’s Doll doesn’t have a homosexual or transgender protagonist. It’s a book about a boy that wants a doll and is mocked for it. Here is what the children’s picture book’s description on Amazon says:


More than anything, William wants a doll. “Don’t be a creep,” says his brother. “Sissy, sissy,” chants the boy next door. Then one day someone really understands William’s wish, and make it easy for others to understand, too. William gets a doll, so he can learn to be a loving parent someday.

Written by beloved author Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by Newbery Medal-winning author and Caldecott Honor Book illustrator William Pène du Bois, William’s Doll was published in 1972 and was one of the first picture books to deal with gender stereotypes. William’s Doll has been welcomed by teachers, librarians, and other caregivers as a springboard for discussion about gender roles and intolerance, whether shared one on one or with groups in a classroom or library setting.


I Am Jazz is a book about transgender activist Jazz Jennings. The book has the same title as Jennings’s TLC television show.

Here is what Amazon’s description of the children’s-oriented picture book says:

From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn’t feel like herself in boys’ clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way. Jazz’s story is based on her real-life experience and she tells it in a simple, clear way that will be appreciated by picture book readers, their parents, and teachers.


Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag is about a politician. Harvey Milk was as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors when he was assassinated in 1978.

Like I Am Jazz, it’s also a picture book for children. Here is what the book’s description on Amazon says:


In this deeply moving and empowering true story, young readers will trace the life of the Gay Pride Flag, from its beginnings in 1978 with social activist Harvey Milk and designer Gilbert Baker to its spanning of the globe and its role in today’s world. Award-winning author Rob Sanders’s stirring text, and acclaimed illustrator Steven Salerno’s evocative images, combine to tell this remarkable — and undertold — story. A story of love, hope, equality, and pride.


Massachusetts Family Institute communications director Mary Ellen Siegler told NewBostonPost in an email message that the titles the school read to first and third-graders are not age-appropriate. Here is what she wrote:


Schools should not be reading books to young impressionable children that indoctrinate them in harmful transgender ideology. Books that normalize unscientific ideas like sex is changeable confuse children about their gender. This is child abuse. These activist efforts by schools also undermine parental rights. If you research Jazz Jennings, the male-to-female transgender person the book “I Am Jazz” is about, you will see that he has been transparent about his mental health issues and his struggle with severe depression and anxiety. Is this the kind of distress Milton school officials want to introduce into the lives of their young students? The Milton school district should stop reading books that groom children toward sexual and gender identities immediately and should stick to teaching reading, writing, and math.


Coben, the school librarian, could not be reached for comment.

Milton Public Schools superintendent James Jette, contacted by NewBostonPost, defended the school’s use of the books, saying that the books teach students about people from diverse backgrounds.  Jette said by email:


Any of these concerns are important to me. I have spoken with the school librarian and reviewed the books that you brought to my attention.  Milton Public Schools, like all public school districts in Massachusetts, is required to follow the core curriculum established by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The curriculum for grade 1 (history) sets out content to teach students to develop an understanding of the diversity of the people of the United States and at the same time, how people of different backgrounds can still hold in common shared values of politeness, courage, honesty, respect, and reliability.   Suggested books include “I am Jazz,” which is one of the books that you questioned. The materials are consistent with the core curriculum and will continue to be used in lessons about diversity and inclusion. These lessons are delivered by trained educators and in an age-appropriate manner. 


Tucker Elementary School is a public school that serves kindergarten through fifth grade. It’s located in Milton, Massachusetts, a town of more than 28,000 people just south of Boston.


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