Author Jason Tharp bans reading ‘It’s Okay to Be a Unicorn’ at Ohio school

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Jason Tharp wants to write books for weird kids — because he was one.

Growing up in Ohio, the 45-year-old children’s author, illustrator and inspirational speaker sometimes felt invisible. But as he struggled with feelings of loneliness, he found solace in books.

Now Tharp is on a mission to reach that “kid” who needs to feel seen. So in 2017, he developed a character to remind his readers that it’s okay to be different.

“I sat down and tried to figure out what kind of character wouldn’t be threatening, that they would be instantly lovable, and that I would be able to get them…to invest in the story,” Tharp said. in an interview with The Washington. To post. “I was like, ‘Kids love unicorns.’ ”

But for one school district in Ohio, Tharp’s book – featuring a blue and purple unicorn under a rainbow-colored title – was too controversial.

On April 6, as Tharp was about to read “It’s good to be a unicorn!To students the next day at an elementary school in the local school district of Buckeye Valley, north of Columbus, he received a call from the principal saying that superiors did not want him to read the book.

“I immediately asked him, ‘Does anyone think I’ve done a gay book?’ “Thrap said. “And he said, ‘Yeah. … The concern is that you’re coming up with a program to recruit kids to be gay.’”

Jeremy Froehlich, the acting superintendent, did not respond to the Post’s request for comment. In an interview with WBNSFroehlich said a relative came to his office on April 6, expressing concern about the book.

“They just wanted to make sure we checked the book and our staff thought they checked it,” he said.

A deputy director read the children’s book “I need a new ass!” second-grade students. He was fired.

Tharp’s event is the latest casualty in the culture war on children’s books. The selection of books available in schools has become a hot topic in recent years, with contention primarily over those that reference race and sexual orientation. In November, the American Library Association called the speed at which the books are being challenged “unprecedented”.

Last month, a vice principal at an elementary school in Mississippi was fired after reading the children’s book “I need a new ass!to sophomores. The superintendent argued that the book was inappropriate and that the vice principal had shown “impaired judgment” in reading it.

Tharp, who lives in Powell, Ohio, about 10 miles south of the local Buckeye Valley School District, was originally scheduled to visit Buckeye Valley West Elementary in 2020, but the event was postponed. because of the pandemic. The school has postponed the visit to April 7, and administrators have ordered more than 500 copies of its books for students ahead of the event, Tharp said. “It’s good to be a unicorn!” follows Cornelius, a unicorn who hides his true identity because he lives among horses who dislike unicorns. In the end, he reveals his true self and is accepted by everyone.

But on the morning of April 6, the manager of Buckeye Valley West called him to say plans had changed – the superintendent didn’t want him to read the book.

“I was just shocked — and all of this from a single parent,” said Tharp, who had stayed up until 3 a.m. that day to sign the books. “I’ve never had a problem like this. … I never thought in a million years that I should defend this book.

Tharp offered to read a different book, “It’s good to smell good!” about a skunk who lives in a smelly world but realizes that he – unlike his peers – likes things that smell good. In the end, the skunk finds a friend who also likes good smells, this which makes him feel less alone.

“There are no rainbows. No unicorns,” Tharp said.

But about 30 minutes after the call with the principal, he emailed Tharp, saying the superiors didn’t want him to read this. neither does the book. Instead, they wanted it to “continue to focus on your positive message and artwork,” according to the email, which was reviewed by The Post. Tharp made his presentation the next day, omitting any reference to the unicorn book.

News of Tharp’s visit spread quickly, angering parents who love the book and prompting them to protest the superintendent’s decision. The school board organized a emergency meeting on April 8 to respond to the controversy. Community members have expressed frustration over the decision to block Tharp from reading the Unicorn Book.

Kaylan Brazelton, a parent and educator at the primary school, said teachers had been ordered to remove drawings of rainbows and unicorns that students made in anticipation of Tharp’s visit. Photos reviewed by The Post show that the artwork has been replaced with character designs from another of Tharp’s books.

“It’s a rainbow. The fact that we had to remove all of the student artwork – it was heartbreaking, and we couldn’t even believe we were in this position to do it, but we did what we were told,” said Brazelton at the board meeting, adding that the kids “were so confused.”

Another parent partnered with Tharp to start a GoFundMe to raise funds for a free event next month where the author will read her unicorn book and share her story.

Tharp, who pre-pandemic spoke to around 40,000 to 50,000 students a year, is confident that those who objected to the book never actually read it because clearly there is no reference to the LGBTQ community.

“They project their agenda [because] there is a rainbow…on the back of the book,” Tharp said.

But the author, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year and is now recovering, said he was trying not to let people’s uninformed opinions consume him.

“There’s a lot of clarity that a brain tumor brings,” he said. “I don’t spend my time taking care of people with an agenda because there’s so much joy out there, there’s so much love to be had.”


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