Three dozen preschoolers clustered around the stage in Montclair Public Library’s auditorium recently, patiently awaiting storytime. Their faces lit up when a figure swooped in wearing a fluorescent wig and a floor-length gown dripping with sequins.
“Hello!” gushed Harmonica Sunbeam. “Did you all come straight from Zumba?”
With preschoolers and parents still chuckling, Sunbeam led everyone in the ABCs before getting down to the business at hand: reading children’s stories that expose youngsters to themes of diversity and acceptance.
Two years ago, Sunbeam began reading to New York City preschoolers through Drag Queen Story Hour, a national network formed in San Francisco in 2015. DQSH now has 23 chapters. Sunbeam, who lives in Jersey City, started the North New Jersey chapter.
“I thought that there must be people in New Jersey that are open-minded and ready for something like this,” she tells New Jersey Monthly. So far, she has three other potential members.
During storytime, Sunbeam read several crowd-pleasers, including Neither by New Jersey author Airlie Anderson, about a half-bird, half-bunny who wasn’t accepted by either birds or bunnies.
“Has there ever been a time when someone wouldn’t allow you to play with them?” Sunbeam asked her audience. “Yeah,” came the enthusiastic reply.
“How did it make you feel?” she asked. The answer: “Sad.”
By the book’s end, the bird-bunny found acceptance. Sunbeam explained, “They’re saying that you can fit in—because everyone is different.”
Sunbeam enjoys engaging preschoolers this way. “I get very emotional at each event,” she says. “It’s a great feeling to see all the smiling faces.”
Parents appreciate Sunbeam’s message. “I want to expose them to everything,” says Montclair resident Kara Mohren, 43, of her 3-year-old twins. “I just want them to see love.”
Next up for Sunbeam: DQSH readings at Word Bookstore in Jersey City, March 23 and April 20.Click here to leave a comment