Out & About Bookshop, a mobile bookstore offering LGBTQ children’s books, story times, youth book clubs, and community events, is launching this Saturday in San Francisco. One of the two queer educators behind its creation shared some insight about the project with me.
Out & About Bookshop is the brainchild of Katy, whose background is in Early Childhood Education and has been a public school teacher for the past decade, and Charlie, who previously taught middle and high school students before completing a graduate degree in Educational Leadership. Charlie also loves woodworking, a skill they put to good use transforming a Ford E450 Thomas School Bus, formerly a field trip bus for a local middle school, into a mobile bookshop.
Out & About Bookshop, Katy and Charlie say on their Instagram page, is “dedicated to nurturing children’s literary lives and developing their curiosity…. We aim to engage children in diverse literature that provides windows and mirrors. We aspire to uplift the work of LGBTQ+ authors, amplifying stories that are often underrepresented in children’s literature. Our dream is to create a space that we would love to see for our families in the world.”
Katy shared a little about the origins of the idea:
I’ve supported numerous transgender, nonbinary and gender expansive students and their families over the past ten years. I began Gender Inclusive Classrooms seven years ago as a way to bring together all of the resources I was using to affirm students. It grew into a website and social media page where my co-creator, Kieran, and I share and create content for creating safe and supportive classrooms for all students. In addition, I’ve run a Rainbow Club at our elementary school for the past four years and I began developing a program so that I could help others start their own Rainbow Clubs.
When I decided to take a break from classroom teaching in June, my friend Charlie had just graduated with a degree in Educational Leadership and Business. We shared book recommendations with each other and talked about the importance of seeing ourselves represented in literature. I mentioned that I has always dreamed of opening my own bookstore. What started as a dream suddenly became a reality when we found a bus for sale. Given the current public discourse around LGBTQ+ students, particularly trans children, we felt that this was the time to uplift LGBTQ+ authors, children and their families. As we watched legislation pass in states across the country and more and more books get banned, we felt called to highlight these stories and provide community and representation for families like ours.
Why a mobile bookshop? Katy explained:
This was partly a financial decision, as we could start on a smaller scale, but it was also a unique opportunity to bring books to children and families across the Bay Area. We envisioned being able to pull up to parks and offer storytimes, pull up to schools and offer field trip programming, pull up to events and uplift exceptional LGBTQ+ authors. I think that our mobile bookstore will allow us a whole set of opportunities because we can get the books directly to people. We’re excited to see how this all unfolds!
Katy noted that while “We are VERY new to this work and still learning ourselves,” there are a few things working in their favor, such as being in the Bay Area “where there is a lot of support built-in,” and being “in a unique situation where we are for-profit but we’re also being fiscally sponsored by L.C. and Lille Cox Haven of Hope in order to provide community engagement at no cost.”
I look forward to seeing how they evolve—this sounds like a great way to get curated, quality, LGBTQ-inclusive books into the hands of those seeking them, as well as offering story times and other fun events from trained educators.
Join Out & About Bookshop’s mailing list to learn about event locations, including their launch event October 1, with authors Nina LaCour (Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle), Lourdes Rivas (They Call Me Mix/Me Llaman Maestre), and A.J. Sass (Ana on the Edge, Ellen Outside the Lines).