World Book Day at school typically consisted of dressing up as a favourite character and maybe chatting about the best books out at the time.
But one Bristol primary school decided to use the much-loved day to celebrate tolerance and diversity, as well as a love of literature.
Rather than getting one of the school teachers to read aloud to the children, a drag queen named Sally, dressed in gold glittery stilettos and a matching sequined mini-dress, took on the role instead.
She sang ‘Old Macdonald’ with enraptured reception pupils, wearing fancy dress.
Sally read them a storybook, 10,000 Dresses, about a boy who dreamed of beautiful outfits but whose mother did not approve.
The pupils, dressed as pirates, princesses, mermaids and witches, asked questions including: “Where did you get your sparkly dress from?”
Sally said: “I got it from my best friend for Christmas and I got my sparkly shoes from my partner.”
The 27-year-old, who previously worked as a carer and in hospitality jobs, took it in turns to read to the children along with another drag queen, Alyssa.
She said: “I really like how many parents came along, everyone is getting involved.”
The school already has a gender neutral uniform policy and unisex toilets, and head teacher Mr Barry said he wanted to “break down gender stereotypes.”
“Some of the parents thought we were pushing an agenda, but the books were already in the school library. We know that some people questioned the appropriateness of it so we did an open invite so any parents could come.”
He added: “To me it’s just basic human values and respect for one another. We’re trying to remove barriers.”
Organiser Tom Canham, 26, said he started Drag Queen Story time after seeing it existed in the U.S but that there was no British equivalent.
He said: “The only negativity we’ve had is from people who haven’t been to our shows, and wouldn’t go. Out of 2,500 children who have watched our shows, only three have said ‘you’re a man in a dress.’
“Children don’t really have these expectations.”
Several mothers also accused Mr Barry of being “vague” before the event about which drag queens were attending the school and what stories they would be reading.
But the school stated it takes the safeguarding of its pupils to be their absolute priority.
Parson Street Primary School recently won the Gold Best Practice award from LGBT education charity Educate & Celebrate.
Parents said they were concerned whether or not the drag queens who volunteer with the self-funded organisation were DBS (police) checked.
But the organisation reassured them that many of the drag queens it uses are already DBS checked for jobs they have done previously as teachers and volunteers.
Mr Canham said: “All of the reading material we use at our performances are specifically written for children, and cover all of the topics we engage with in an age-appropriate format.
”Many of these children will not be LGBT themselves but they will at some point come into contact with someone who is. We have an opportunity to provide our children with a better world in which to grow up, free from fear of rejection, or abuse, for being who they are.
”Drag Queen Story Time is proud to be working with fantastic organisations all across the country to help make that a reality.”
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