Things almost went awry when federal member for Sydney, Tanya Plibersek, read a children’s book about kids with same-sex parents to Year Three students at Newtown Public School this week.
The story, which features a girl with two mummies and a boy with two daddies making a rainbow-coloured cubby house, is meant to educate children about the diverse forms a family can take.
When Plibersek finished reading the book she asked the kids what they thought would happen next. They’re all going to die! cried one boy gleefully, causing the politician and assembled media to gasp in horror.
But everyone’s fears were allayed when the boy explained: They ate potatoes that had dogs’ spit on them, so they’d probably all get diseases and die. Phew.
It turned out the children all enjoyed The Rainbow Cubby House, written by Vicki Harding and her daughter Brenna, and none of them thought there was anything odd or strange about the families depicted.
I think it’s important for all children to know that families are different, said Plibersek, who is also Labor’s shadow minister for youth and early childhood education.
There are different types of families and no one is any better or worse, and these types of books show that.
The earlier we start to tell children this, the better for those kids.
She explained that her own four-year-old daughter, Anna, is a big fan of Harding’s educational books, which include the titles My House, Going To Fair Day and Koalas On Parade.
One night she said to me, -˜Mummy, I wish I had two mummies,’ Plibersek said.
Another time she said to my husband, -˜Daddy, I wish I had two daddies.’
She sees these families where there are extra mums or more parents as extra love. She doesn’t see anything unusual about it.
She sees these books as great stories, and that’s why I think they’re such effective teaching aids and that’s why I think kids will enjoy them so much.
When asked what deputy prime minister John Anderson would think of her promoting the books, which he recently labelled a waste of taxpayers’ money and inappropriate for children, Plibersek said: You’d have to ask him. Frankly I can’t understand why he was so worried about it.
I know the kids who are reading these books might just start life with the wonderful gift of growing up without homophobic prejudice, she said.
That’s great for those individual kids and it’s wonderful for our whole community too.