“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt
I teach second grade. I teach my students all about community, and equality, and acceptance. I teach them to look out for each other, and for others who might need a helping hand. I teach them that we are all different, and yet we are all the same. That the ways that we’re different are also the ways that we’re beautiful. I use picture books a lot in my classroom to teach these themes. We read books about civil rights and tolerance… and we have had many conversations about civil rights related to race and gender (in a second grade appropriate way). It occurred to me, though, that there’s a void in my collection of books… specifically relating to LGBT civil rights and liberties.
Last year, a friend of mine (Thanks, Lilly!) told me about a book… And Tango Makes Three. This book, written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, is based on a true story out of Central Park Zoo. In the story, the zookeeper notices two male penguins who become a couple, doing the same things that all the other penguin couples do. They eat together, they nest together, they cuddle together. And, they adopt a rock and try to “hatch” it together. The zookeeper has an idea, and decides to give the penguins (named Roy and Silo) an egg that needs a family. Roy and Silo take immediate responsibility for their egg, and in the end, Tango is born. The story is a beautiful way to teach children about the differences among families, about how love can happen in same sex couples just like it does in opposite sex couples, about how fairness and equality apply to everyone.
I read it to my class last year, and we had a wonderful conversation about it. This year, I read it again, this time when a “teachable moment” popped up. After I read the book, my students couldn’t stop talking about it.
“I think it’s about love. Families can look different, but what matters is love.”
“I think it’s nice that two boys can love each other.”
“Roy and Silo both sat on the egg. They both took care of Tango.”
“Tango was adopted. I know someone who is adopted!”
“I have two Mommies AND two Daddies!”
It brings tears to my eyes just writing it down. Children come into this world with an inherent capacity to LOVE and ACCEPT. It’s our job as adults to ensure not only that we preserve this capacity, but that we use it to better the world. Can you imagine how different society could be if love and acceptance were commonplace? What could happen if every child, in their own small nook of the world, was taught ALL about universal human rights and dignity?
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. And I wonder… what are your favorites?