This week was national reading week in Belgium, and today I went to read Prince and Knight (by Daniel Haack and Stevie Lewis) in Kindergarten.
I was there with three other parents, so the class was divided in three groups of around nine kids and I got to read the story twice (hello perform stress) before the bell rang . The kids are four to almost five years old.
When I read this story at home, no questions arose (about prince and knight anyway, there were a zillion about the dragon). Today was different. Both groups were different. It was my first time reading an LGBT story to kids this young. I have no particular feelings about how I ended up handling their reactions, but I wanted to share the experience. Feel free to comment!
Local note: same-sex marriage is legal in Belgium since 2003. Actually, the law defines that the right to marry has neither a gender-restriction, nor a sexual identity restriction.
General reading note: I read Prince and Knight in Dutch and translated the rhyme beforehand. BUT eventually I did not read it in rhyme. It messed with my suspense act. It also messed with interactive reading. Which means I pulled a major bad-ass reading stunt: I sat cross-legged in front of them and held the book towards the kids so they could all see and told the story by heart. I guarantee you, I was glorious.
Fons, my son, and his best friend who I know quite well were both in this group.
A few girls jumped on the dresses. “Ooh dresses! That one is the longest. That one is sooo pretty. ” (I agree.)
Girl: “Oh I want to marry a prince.” (Oi.)
General discussion about how long it would take for a house to perish in flames.
“Why does the prince look afraid of the knight?”
Me: “Because he just fell off a dragon. That’s scary.”
Me: “The Knight took off his helmet.”
Girl: “It’s gonna be a girl.”
Which made me smile because that’s exactly what an adult friend of mine said when he first read the book. There is of course a show called “Nella the knight-princess” which airs almost every day over here.
It was not a girl. It was a handsome boy with a gentle smile.
Girl (there were quite a bit of boys in this group, but on the dragon-less pages they got overpowered): “That’s impossible.”
Me: “It is though. It is a boy. And they decided to get married.”
Same Girl: “But they can’t.”
Me: “Yes they can. A boy can marry a boy and a girl can marry a girl.”
Next page they were celebrating and: “Why is the prince dressed like a girl?”
This one caught me completely off-guard: “Is he? He wears a cape.”
Boy: “Boys wear capes. Girls too.”
General consensus about the gender-neutrality of capes and their overall awesomeness. Prince and Knight proceeded to their happily ever after. End of story and back to an after-discussion on the various way to act during a dragon attack and How to Tame a Dragon.
Same girl asked if she could see the Prince and Knight again and studied them until I had to shift to group two.
I didn’t know the kids in this group very well. One boy sitting right next to me did a little bit more of commenting than the others, but they were more equally divided.
Boy: “Haha, he’s running away from the girls. I think he looks a bit scared.”
Me: “I think so too. And he tells his parents he wants to search someone else to marry.”
Girl: “What’s a villager?”
Other girl: “My house caught fire once too.”
Me: “Did it?”
Girl: “Yes. We have a new one now.”
General discussion about horses and pets, and on How to Tame a Dragon. General awe for both the Knight and the Prince, such skill. The knight caught the prince, very brave of him.
Ahah, and they are getting married. The ‘villagers’ are back. They lived happily ever after.
Girl: That was a very beautiful story (thanks kiddo, I needed that one).
Other girl: I want to marry my brother but my mother says I can’t.
Me: “Yeah, you can’t.”
Boy: “Can I see the first page? See there is the prince. And on the next page is the knight.”
I flip to the last page.
Boy (smiling): “And there they found each other.”
So there you go. Prince and Knight. Onward to the next story.
I purposedly left most of my thoughts out. But I’d love to hear yours.