This past fall, OUT Maine’s Executive Director Jeanne Dooley had a flash of inspiration. What if school libraries had more inclusive books available to their students? OUT Maine, an organization that serves LGBTQ+ youth in Maine, already had recommended reading lists for families and educators on its website. The key was to get these books into the libraries.
The Read the Rainbow campaign began! Over the next month, OUT secured individual donations to purchase the books. Once the program opened up to schools to apply, the response was overwhelming. Applications from 59 school libraries across the state requested the curated, grade-level appropriate book sets, far exceeding the funds already raised.
In the last month, OUT Maine sent book sets to 43 school libraries in 15 of Maine’s 16 counties, thanks to the wonderful wave of support from OUT Maine donors. Each book set contains between 16 and 24 books and is completely free to the library. Special thanks to Hello Hello Books in Rockland for coordinating the book set shipping and its ongoing support of OUT Maine’s work!
“This gift from OUT Maine could not have come at a better time! These past two months, I had multiple middle-grade students ask for books with queer characters/storylines,” says Taylor Leach, library media specialist at Vinalhaven School. “Between the resources provided on their website and the Read the Rainbow Program, OUT Maine has allowed me to provide what our students want and need and meet these requests from our students.
Positive representation for all in literature is something we strive for in our library, and OUT Maine has helped us take a massive leap in the right direction. Knowing how excited my students will be with these new book options brought some tears to my eyes. The Vinalhaven School Library cannot say thank you enough for this generous gift!”
These book sets increase visibility of LGBTQ+ people, celebrate diversity and foster supportive communities. Each set is based on age-appropriate reading levels: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. The sets are a mix of fiction and nonfiction, including books that teach about important moments in LGBTQ+ history from the election of Harvey Milk to the Stonewall riots.
“We still have 79 requests for book sets waiting for funding to fill,” explains OUT staffer Ingalil Vickerman. “These waiting list orders would cost $22,500 to distribute.” Once these requests are addressed, OUT Maine plans to fundraise to distribute the books to interested Maine’s public libraries.
If you want to help deliver LGBTQ+-inclusive books into Maine’s school libraries, please go to outmaine.org/read-the-rainbow. A $400 donation sends a full set of books for a grade level; donors of $400 can choose the grade level sets they wish to support. Yet any donation contributes to whittling down the school library waiting list and is greatly appreciated!
OUT Maine has an ambitious goal: to create more welcoming and affirming communities for Maine’s diverse queer youth in all of their intersectional identities by changing the very systems that serve them. For more information, visit www.outmaine.org.