Students enjoy community reading while standing in solidarity with transgender youth across the nation
For the past two years, as a part of 'International I Am Jazz Day,' Canadian schools across the country
have been hosting community readings of I Am Jazz to foster safe and welcoming schools and communities for young people.
"It's important for kids to hear these stories because a lot of households don't talk about topics like this. This way, kids aren't confused when they meet someone different. They make that person feel welcome," explains Grace Thompson, a Grade 11 student at Sinclair Secondary School.
On February 28th, students from Sinclair gathered together with students from Sherwood Public School at the Education Centre in Whitby to recognize and celebrate that being different comes in many forms.
Equity and Inclusive Education Officer Barry Bedford speaks
with students from Sherwood PS ahead of the 2nd Annual
I Am Jazz Community Reading at the Education Centre in Whitby.
The 2nd Annual I Am Jazz Community Reading was organized by the Durham District School Board (DDSB) Equity and Early Years departments, along with Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG, which includes all sexual orientations and gender identities/expressions).
Thompson and Ariel Walcott, a Grade 10 student at Sinclair SS, kicked-off the event with a reading of the book I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel. Sherwood PS students in kindergarten and their Grade 5 reading buddies listened intently to the meaningful message of the book.
I Am Jazz is a first-person account of what it's like to be transgender. Jazz Jennings was one of the first transgender children to openly talk about her identity, and the challenges she faced as a transgender youth.
After the reading, students ate cupcakes, made crafts, posed in the photo booth, and drew pictures. The drawings are being turned into a book that will document the excitement of their day. Once finished, the book will be brought back to Sherwood PS to be shared with their peers at the school.
Barry Bedford, Equity and Inclusive Education Officer at the DDSB, says the intent of these community readings and other equity events is to ensure all students feel safe and welcome at school. "Equity and inclusion for all is one of the DDSB's main pillars," explains Bedford. He adds, "Kids are so understanding. It's important to start these conversations now, to show them that it's okay to be different, and to continue having these conversations so that they know they are safe and welcomed here."
L-R: Sinclair SS students Grace Thompson and Ariel Walcott read I Am Jazz to kindergarten and Grade 5 Sherwood PS students.
Sherwood PS students make crafts at the 2nd Annual I Am Jazz Community Reading on February 28th
Sherwood PS students draw pictures to describe the events of their day at the 2nd Annual I Am Jazz Community Reading.