April 4, 2024

Amidst the concerning decline in youth readership, Stand with Trans and esteemed art therapist Kelly Darke are teaming up to revolutionize the Banned Books Club. Through this creative partnership, young participants combine literature and creative expression. Led by Darke, quarterly art projects will not only foster artistic exploration but also delve into the meaningful discussions surrounding books by queer authors currently facing bans in schools nationwide.

According to a survey conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), American 9 and 13 year-olds who say they read for fun on an almost daily basis have dropped from nearly a decade ago. In fact, they are now at the lowest levels since at least the mid-1980s. Statistics from the National Endowment for the Arts state that young people who read for pleasure perform better academically, indicating that regular reading improves vocabulary, comprehension, and critical thinking skills.

Acknowledging the profound impact of both literature and art, Stand with Trans is offering young readers a dynamic and enriching experience that fosters self-exploration and emotional well-being. Through these quarterly art projects during the Banned Books Club meetings, participants can dive into the thought-provoking themes and narratives while engaging in creative self-expression.

“Our goal is to create a love of reading among young LGBTQ+ members and empower them.” says Program Manager, Lev Ryan. “By doing these quarterly art projects alongside our book discussions, we hope to provide a supportive environment where young readers can explore their thoughts and emotions in a meaningful way all while being with others in their community in a safe space.”

Kelly Darke, a board-certified art therapist and published author, brings a wealth of expertise to the collaboration. With over a decade of experience working with youth and adults, Darke specializes in using art therapy to address various developmental and emotional needs.

“I am thrilled to be part of this initiative, which combines the therapeutic benefits of art with the transformative power of literature,” says Darke. “Incorporating these art projects provides young people with a creative outlet for self-expression and exploration, enhancing their reading experience and promoting personal growth.”

Funded by the Flagstar Foundation, the Banned Books Club meets every fourth Friday of the month, with quarterly art therapy sessions scheduled throughout the year. Each meeting offers participants the opportunity to delve into thought-provoking literature by queer authors, engage in meaningful discussions with others in the community, all while in a safe and friendly space for young members.

Stand with Trans invites young readers to join the Banned Books Club and experience the magic of reading and art. Registration is free for anyone who wants to attend. For more information about meeting dates, and book selections, please visit StandwithTrans.org or contact Stand with Trans Program Manager, Lev Ryan Levett at Lev@standwithtrans.org.

About Kelly Darke:

Kelly Darke is a board-certified art therapist, published author, certified K-12 art teacher, professional artist, and speaker. With over a decade of experience in the field, Darke specializes in using art therapy to address various developmental and emotional needs across all age groups. She co-authored the book Art Therapy with Transgender and Gender-Expansive Children and Teenagers, published in 2020.

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