PORT RICHEY, Fla. — A new children's reading hour at a Port Richey bookstore has attendees worried about their safety for future readings.
- "Drag Queen Story Hour" started at Port Richey bookstore
- Protesters showed up with signs before Christmas reading, yelled
- Bookstore, reader plan to continue them regardless of protests
The Paperback Exchange Bookstore's story hour for kids features a drag queen as the reader.
Stephanie Stuart started "Drag Queen Story Hour" because she remembers being made fun of as child. She says she's trying to show kids today that she's no different than anyone else.
"It's a chance for me to interact with children. In my line of work, I don't usually get that. I'm usually in a very smoky bar at 11:30 at night," Stuart said.
She partnered with Joan Hepsworth, who co-owns The Paperback Exchange with her wife, to do the story hour for kids once a month.
"I wanted kids to have a safe place to go whether they had gay, straight or whatever kind of parents they had. I want them know it was a safe place for them to come and be read to," Hepsworth said.
But during the first story hour last week, protesters showed up outside the shop with signs and yelling at those inside.
"These people weren't just walking up and down the road with their signs. They were yelling and screaming at children," Stuart said.
"I was angry," Hepsworth said. "Disappointed. Sad. (It was) two days before Christmas. I'm sure they can find something better to do."
Pasco County deputies were called and kept the peace. Nobody was hurt or arrested.
Pasco Pride and its president, Nina Borders, were also there. She wonders why an event for kids would bring out protesters.
"She reads books that everyone reads to their children at some point," Borders said. "There's no difference there. We are normal people. We are exactly like everybody else, and there's no need to protest."
Stuart said "Drag Queen Story Hours" have been successful in other cities nationwide, and she plans to keep doing them, even if protesters show up again.
"I'm simply reading to children, hoping to inspire them to be the best they can be," Stuart said. "I have support here, and I plan to keep doing it."
The next story hour is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, January 5. Organizers plan to have more supporters there in case protesters show up again. They plan to have them on the first Saturday of every month.