Drag queens promote love for reading in Cebu

Blacc Dahlia reads to students.
Blacc Dahlia reads to students.
Maria Lava and Blacc Dahlia host a storytelling session.
Maria Lava and Blacc Dahlia host a storytelling session.

MANY of us remember that reading as a kid means visiting fun places where turtles have conversations, bunnies wear suits and whimsical characters spring to life. These adventures let our imaginations run wild, pulling us deeper into the pages of our favorite books. When drag queens of Cebu decided to host storytelling sessions, it opened up a whole new world of wonder for children, creating an experience that many of us wish we had in our own childhoods.

The Queen Story Hour was launched on June 1, 2024 and held at the Mandaue City Public Library. It was headed by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) champion, Dmitri Cortes. The queens, Blacc Dahlia and Maria Lava read a book titled, “Being You: A First Conversation About Gender.” To walk into a library and see a larger-than-life character, decked out in dazzling sequins, feathers and bright colors — this was no ordinary storytime.

Goal

The primary goal of the project is to spark a genuine love for reading among children by showing them how enjoyable and adventurous it can be. Just like every reading session, the aim is to create a culture of reading among young ones.

For Queen Story Hour, the team members carefully planned a timeline and set clear objectives to cultivate a lifelong love for reading. They say a child’s mind is like a sponge, soaking up everything around them. By introducing them to diverse characters and experiences, the event helps build a strong foundation for empathy and understanding.

This initiative has been around since 2007, thanks to the Culture of Reading initiative. This time, the Mandaue City Public Library has partnered with World Vision to integrate teaching letters and sounds. Hosted in two barangays in Mandaue — Paknaan and Mantuyong Daycare Center — the children enjoyed a well-organized program starting with registration and ending with feedback.

The program included value-based life skills activities like storytelling for the spiritual nurture of the children, child protection life skills for kids aged five to 10, and “Usapang Mental Health for Kids” for those aged 11-14.

They also had a literacy and numeracy session, grouping the children according to their skills based on a pre-assessment. To wrap it all up, the hardworking kids were treated to snacks, celebrating their joy of learning and reading.

The best part of these programs is that they include parents and guardians. These events engage them in the reading journey by providing resources, hosting family reading events and encouraging them to read with their children at home. Reading spaces by Queen Story Hour become more inviting that not only sets reading goals but also track progress, reward achievements and organize book fairs.

Some people worry these events might be seen as pushing a social agenda. However, the primary goal of drag queen story hours is to promote literacy and inclusivity. The wholesome stories often focus on universal values such as acceptance, kindness and understanding, rather than any specific political or social ideology. The city of Mandaue continues to champion LGBT+ initiatives by hosting these events, allowing drag queens to perform and be themselves while also connecting with the young ones who will form the next generation.

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