By Zachary J. Fox
Photograph by Zachary J. Fox

Kids Need to Read is coming out with a new program designed to impact LGBTQIA+ youths! The Novel Closet, a Closet for Out Books, is a resource for high school students to explore LGBTQIA+ identities through young adult literary treasures.

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In high schools all over America, the word gay is used as a slur or as a synonym for terrible. Some parents or guardians treat gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and other such terms as too mature to talk about or acknowledge around their children. It has created a vacuum of negativity within our school system, leaving LGBTQIA+ teens stranded without a lifeline. With unsupportive environments present both in school and at home, depression and suicide rates for LGBTQIA+ teens are higher than for their heterosexual and cisgender peers.

The Novel Closet seeks to alleviate this negative culture through LGBTQIA+ themed books. These books will act as a lifeline for teens struggling with their identity and foster a cultural normalcy for LGBTQIA+ identities to exist in the community.

However, to simply provide LGBTQIA+ books to schools isn’t enough. The Novel Closet will make them easily and readily available to the student body through a student run lending library located in a safe space. Lending libraries are small public libraries that operate on the honor system. Someone can take a book, read it at their leisure, and then return it. They can also leave a new book in the Closet for others to read.

With the negative stigma surrounding LGBTQIA+ identities, it can be nerve-wracking to want to explore one’s own identity. Even with the resources available in the school library, a student still must enter a public space, talk with a librarian to check out a book, or be seen reading the book in the library. An out-of-the-way small lending library is an anxiety-free way of supplying questioning, curious, and LGBTQIA+ identifying students with books representing LGBTQIA+ experiences. Additionally, if students enjoy the book they read from The Novel Closet library, they can keep it!

Protecting teens so they can grow up—and grow up happy—is a community job. By providing these LGBTQIA+ themed books, we can make sure the next generation grows up informed and feeling loved!

With adequate funding, the Novel Closet will be opening its door to students at the beginning of the 2017–2018 school year! This rainbow of representation will be community funded, so if you would like to get involved and donate books, Kids Need to Read has a list of books here that we would love to pack into the Novel Closet! We want it to be so full of love that there’s no room for a monster in this closet!

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