Raleigh, NC -- Drag Queen Story Hour continues to capture the imagination and hearts of children in its audience. The books being read have a significant meaning to narrator Kiara Mel.
"Growing up younger and just being yourself at times when it was out of the status quo was viewed very negatively," said Mel.
The children inside the LGBTQ Center of Raleigh are enthusiastic as books from the Storytime Rhymes collection are read aloud. The author, Mike Gauss, told ABC11 they are intended to be as inclusive as possible. The characters are dressed in a t-shirt and jeans with medium-length hair.
"With Storytime Rhymes, we do things like use non-gender-specific names. We use appropriate pronouns: they, them, us, I, we. We will never use he or she because that gender identifies and limits who can relate to the story," said Gauss. "No matter who you are, we all love to wear t-shirts and blue jeans. it could be a boy, girl or non-binary person."
This collection has been brewing in Gauss' mind since he was 14 years old. At 54, the gay author says the extra time at home due to the pandemic pushed him to write and publish all 12 books.
He has created space in books for children to see themselves so insecurities don't carry over into adulthood.
"It took me 50 years to overcome that from my childhood," said Gauss. "I know adults in their 70s and 80s who are still struggling. They feel like outsiders. Somehow, they feel they just aren't right. They can be better somehow. They need to hear it's okay to be you boo."