Organize Your Own Drag Queen Story Hour

 

DQSH was started in San Francisco by Michelle Tea and RADAR Productions. We now have DQSH chapters all over the world! If you would like to organize your own DQSH event, please read these guidelines, email events@dragqueenstoryhour.org to let us know about your event, and credit Michelle Tea, RADAR Productions, and Drag Queen Story Hour in all promotional materials, with links to our websites.

You can also join the DQSH Organizers email list to connect with other DQSH organizers and share resources. Email events@dragqueenstoryhour.org if you would like to be added to this group.

These DQSH guidelines are based on what we have learned about creating successful events.

Program

The program lasts about 45 minutes. One drag queen reads at each event. The drag queen reads two or three picture books, interspersed with simple songs and movement activities, for 20-25 mins. Then the drag queen leads children in a craft activity (decorating wands and crowns are popular crafts), and parents/guardians may choose to take pictures of their children with the drag queen. We end with a dance party. Keep in mind that, while talented multitaskers, queens can’t do it all by themselves: it’s helpful to have one or two dedicated volunteers present as well, especially to help with crafts.

Venues

We host most of our events at public libraries, but we also work with local bookstores, children’s museums, public and private schools, and other community organizations and spaces. While we’re excited to see this program expand, we ask that any chain or corporate bookstores talk with us before organizing events. We also recommend finding ADA-accessible venues so that kids of all abilities can participate!

Funding

Drag queens are professionals and often rely on performance gigs to make a living. While it may be appropriate for some events to ask drag queens to donate their time, we recommend offering some form of payment or stipend to drag queens—you can discuss the rate and terms directly. Libraries, local organizations, and/or venues may be able to offer financial support, and/or you may decide to pass a hat. Please note that DQSH is a nonprofit venture and should not be used to generate money for any businesses or corporations.

Books

We generally use a mix of surefire readalouds and books that explore gender diversity and difference. Here’s a list of some books we use regularly. Make sure your drag queen storytellers have the books in advance so they have time to practice reading out loud.

Trainings: How to Work with Kids

If your drag queens are not experienced in early childhood education, we recommend providing a “storytime 101” training on how to read to and engage kids. Your local library or bookstore may be able to provide trainings or connect you to local organizations. You may also want to discuss how to create an age-appropriate environment for kids, including making sure queens’ outfits, jokes, and performances are suitable for your age group. Working a library is certainly different than working a club—and sometimes that takes some planning!
 

Preparing for Backlash

Unfortunately, some DQSH events have attracted opposition in the form of petitions, protests, and even lawsuits. In every case, the love and support for DQSH events has greatly overpowered the haters, but it’s good to be prepared. If you’re concerned about potential backlash, we recommend working with the venue and local allies to ensure a safe and fun event. If you need additional support, contact us at events@dragqueenstoryhour.org and we’ll do our best to offer more resources.  
 
In all cases, it’s best to double check that you’ve carefully followed the host’s procedures when it comes to reserving space, filling out forms, advertising your event, etc. Some venues—especially public libraries or schools—may require a formal background check, as this is often a standard practice for anyone working with children. That said, we hope this is applied to everyone. We don’t think drag performers should be singled out for special scrutiny as we have every right to participate fully in our communities.

Events calendar

To get your event listed on our events calendar, set up a page on Facebook, create a Facebook event as the page (not as an individual), and add Drag Queen Story Hour as a host. When we accept the invitation to host the event, your event will automatically plug in to the calendar on our website.

Photos

If you take photos at your events, tag us on Facebook or Instagram (@dragqueenstoryhour) and we’ll share them. Important: please don’t post pictures of children’s faces on social media without permission from their parents, guardians, or teachers.

Name

Please DO use the name Drag Queen Story Hour, rather than a variation (e.g. Drag Queen Story Time). This makes it easier for us to track where events are happening. If you would like to use our logo, please check in with us first at events@dragqueenstoryhour.org.

Community questions and concerns

People in your community may have questions or concerns about the program. This basic FAQ sheet may help you answer some of them.

Is this program appropriate for children?
DQSH is designed for children aged 3–8. Drag queens trained by children’s librarians read children’s books, sing children’s songs, and lead children in craft activities.

Should children be exposed to issues like gender fluidity?
Many children express gender fluidity. DQSH teaches children to embrace gender diversity in themselves and in others, and helps to curb bullying of LGBTQ children and kids who may be perceived as different in all kinds of ways.

Why is this program necessary?
LGBTQ-positive programs like DQSH are a vital part of making the world a safe and affirming place for all children. LGBTQ children need role models, and all children should learn to embrace gender diversity and learn empathy.

What is a drag queen?
Drag is an artistic way of expressing yourself and showing the world different parts of who you are and who you want to be. Drag queens often express their feminine sides or different aspects of their gender and personality through dressing up, putting on performances, marching in parades, and volunteering in their communities. There are drag queens, drag kings, drag princes, and drag princesses—anyone can be any of the above! All that matters is that, when you play and dress up, you feel comfortable and creative.

Should I call the drag queen “she” or “he” or “they” or something else?
You can ask them! It’s always OK to ask someone what their PGP is. PGP means Personal Gender Pronoun. Examples of PGPs are she, he, and they. Some people have the same PGP all the time. Some people have different PGPs at different times, like when they’re in drag or not in drag.

Isn’t this confusing for children? What if the children have questions and I don’t know how to answer them?
There are many things in the world that are confusing. Adults don’t always have all the answers, but we can ask questions and learn together. A great place to start is Sez Me, a free LGBTQ web series for the whole family. We also recommend looking at resources from organizations like Gender Spectrum, GLSEN, and PFLAG, as well as local LGBTQ groups.

I’m getting harassed by internet trolls. What should I do?
DQSH organizers and performers may be harassed by internet trolls. Please do not engage with them at all. If you feel directly threatened or worry about your event being disrupted, we recommend discussing it with the venue’s staff, your local LGBTQ community organizations, and/or your local law enforcement.

Testimonials

If you’re reaching out to libraries and schools, these testimonials may help to explain the value of the program.

“Those of us who work with young children on a regular basis know that children can dress and act in a variety of ways, and supporting their choices builds self-confidence and can help avoid serious problems later in life. By creating an atmosphere of acceptance, and reading stories about acceptance of differences, DQSH helps to stave off teasing and bullying.”
—Judy Zuckerman, Director of Youth and Family Services, Brooklyn Public Library

“What an amazing way to teach individuality, empathy, and acceptance! Drag Queen Story Hour gave my first graders a fun and interactive platform to talk and think about social and emotional issues like acceptance, being yourself, and loving who you are. Through books, songs, arts and crafts, and movement activities, they explored these issues and had an amazing time doing it! During our debrief after DQSH, they were preaching the incredible lessons they had learned, like “It’s ok to be different,” and “There’s no such thing as ‘boy’ things or ‘girl’ things.” I was proud to be able to have DQSH at my school and will definitely be planning another story hour for next year!”
—Alexis Hernandez, first grade teacher at PS 118, the Maurice Sendak Community School

“Drag Queen Story Hour allows preschool children to deepen and complicate their ideas about gender at the exact age when they are often developing rigid ideas about this concept. The program is fun, interactive, family-friendly, and conveys important messages about gender and diversity in a way that is light and accessible to all. I would invite Drag Queen Story Hour back to my school any time!”
—Katrina Green, teacher at Chickpeas Preschool

Good luck with your event and thank you for spreading the magic of Drag Queen Story Hour!