Reading Small Town Pride With Kids

Small Town Pride stars a tween working to understand himself, change his community and gain autonomy over his own story. After coming out to his parents, Jake wonders how they feel about his identity until he spots a comically large rainbow flag that his father has raised in their front yard. As a parent, I laughed out loud at this over-the-top expression of love and support. I, too, wanted to cheer Jake on as he worked to find his own pride in a small farming community.

Phil Stamper’s book for ages 8-12 provides ample opportunities to explore themes like advocacy, allyship, relationships, and community organizing with kids. Use some of the ideas below to get started.

What is Pride? Jenna, Jake, and Brett paint their faces before pep rallies and big games to show their school pride. Jake also wants to celebrate his gay pride and struggles to do so in his small town. Paint your faces (or draw pictures of yourselves wearing face paint) with colors or symbols that express your pride in your identities. Talk about what it means to feel proud of who you are. Identify some other ways you could show your pride to others.

Parental Pressure. Brett’s mom puts a lot of pressure on him to dress a certain way, have certain friends, and get good grades. At one point, Brett decides to speak with his mother about how her behavior affects him. Imagine with your child what that conversation was like.  Take turns acting out the parts of both Brett and his mother as you explore possible scenarios. 

Rehearsing Advocacy. When Jake decides to hold a pride festival in his town, he knows it will be a lot of work. Identify all the different steps Jake and his friends take to plan the festival. Then pretend to host your own festival. Invite children to pick a cause they would like to support. Create social media posts and news releases, as well as activities for participants. If you or the children are tech savvy, simulate your festival in a virtual bitmoji room.

Mayor’s Race. Brett’s mother is Barton Spring’s mayor. She makes some controversial decisions, such as removing BLM yard signs and changing the town council rules so Jake cannot present his festival proposal. She’s motivated by her desire to make Barton Springs a peaceful and happy place. Invite children to pretend that they are running against Mayor Miller. Ask: How would you handle things differently? What issues would be your top priority? How would you achieve these goals? Draw a campaign poster together that reflects your values and commitments.

Church. Jake’s family used to attend church but stopped after the pastor’s sermons promoted ideas with which his family disagreed. Another local church agrees to host Jake’s pride festival. Explore the idea of churches and their social significance with children. Ask: What roles do churches play in Small Town Pride? How would Jake know which churches will accept his gay identity? What roles would you like churches to play in your community?



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