A Maryland school district is offering families with pre-K-5 students a Pride Week reading of the picture book “Calvin,” about a 4-year-old transgender boy who dresses as a boy for the first time for his first day of preschool.
The Howard County Public School System also will give away free copies of the book to the first 50 families who register for the June 7 virtual reading by “Calvin” authors JR and Vanessa Ford, according to a registration form a restricted HCPSS Google Document shared with parents.
The virtual reading will be part of several events planned by the school system to address and celebrate LGBTQ issues during Pride Week next month, and comes amid a national debate over gender and sex education in schools.
“HCPSS Pride Week activities will be held outside of the school day, are completely voluntary, and most require pre-registration,” a school system spokesperson said in an emailed statement to The Washington Times.
According to a description posted on the authors’ website, the story of “Calvin” is “inspired by the authors’ own transgender child and accompanied by warm and triumphant illustrations.”
“Calvin has always been a boy, even if the world sees him as a girl. He knows who he is in his heart and in his mind but he hasn’t yet told his family,” the description states.
The social media account Libs of TikTok posted a screenshot of the registration form and the book’s description in a tweet early Thursday.
However, a school system spokesperson called the tweet “misleading” in a statement to The Times.
“The event in the tweet is an evening virtual book reading and discussion with the authors of ‘Calvin.’ The book giveaway is not happening in schools for our students, and rather is for families who opt to attend this event,” the spokesperson said.
The Fords’ website describes them as “nationally-known advocates for LGBTQIA+ rights, specifically rights for transgender youth.”
The authors did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Libs of TikTok‘s tweet about HCPSS’ virtual book reading went viral Thursday.
Libs of TikTok and conservative groups increasingly have called attention to public schools’ efforts to teach young children about transgender identity by publishing details about events like the book reading and giveaway.
The tactic has become more common since Republican-led Florida in late March enacted a parental rights law that bans discussions of sexuality and gender from K-3 public schools.
Advocates for LGBTQ rights have dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” act, suing the state and accusing conservatives of exaggerating the issue for political gain. Conservatives have responded by posting school documents on social media that they cite as evidence of left-wing indoctrination in “transgender ideology.”
The conservative Parents Defending Education, which has worked to publicize LGBT programs for young children, slammed the Howard County Public Schools System on Thursday.
“Who on earth writes a book like this, much less reads it to 4-year-olds? It’s astonishing that so many adults seem determined to deny children their innocence,” said Nicole Neily, the group’s president.