Midtown Scholar is known for many things: new and used books, bringing in New York Times bestselling authors and, now, for drag reading events.
The sprawling bookstore has begun hosting “Drag Storytime,” an event in which local drag queens and kings read stories to children and, often, their parents. The idea started in San Francisco and gradually spread throughout the United States. Eventually, David Kern, Midtown Scholar’s café manager, caught wind of it and decided to bring the event to the Harrisburg bookstore.
“I saw how it was doing amazing things out in the communities surrounding us, and I wanted to bring that to the Scholar,” he said. “We have such a wonderful children’s selection here, and I wanted to give back to the community as well.”
Their first Drag Storytime, last November, had more than 80 people crowded around the Scholar’s main stage. Instead of just the typical story reading, the drag queens also have a sing-along, a “how to” drawing demonstration and a performance.
Each of Midtown Scholar’s Drag Storytime events follows a theme. The last event in March had a circus theme, with Kern dressed as a ringmaster and fellow drag queens decked out in cheetah print as if they were circus animals. During story time, they read “The Circus Thief” by Alane Adams and Dr. Seuss’ “If I Ran A Circus.”
“[The kids] loved every moment of it,” Kern said. “This is a way for us to encourage children to really delve into the magic of reading.”
Kern has been a drag queen himself under the stage name “Ms. Anita” for nearly 18 years. His electric performances and involvement in the community earned him the title Miss Central PA Gay Pride 2018-19. According to Kern, Drag Storytime gives him a chance to entertain and give back to his community.
“I wanted to give back and create something for families and people of all ages, and the best place to do that is here at the bookstore,” he said.
The next Drag Storytime, titled “Rainbows and Unicorns,” will take place during Central PA’s Pride Week on July 20. Local drag queens Jade Devere and Skarlet Overkill will read Robb Perlman’s “Pink is For Boys,” which speaks on gender roles, and “A Unicorn Named Sparkles” by Amy Young.
Kern is also accepting donations before or after Drag Storytime to benefit a local organization. Past donations have gone toward Central PA’s Pride Festival and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Along with Drag Storytime, Midtown Scholar is having its “Summer is For Reading” for children. All summer long, whenever a parents purchase a book for their child, they get a stamp on their “Summer is for Reading” punch card. When they get to five purchased books, they can redeem a free used children’s book after Labor Day.
“This really helps teach children about reading and getting involved in reading,” Kern said. “But it’s also about acceptance and love and self-esteem, and pride within your community.”
For more information on Drag Storytime or Midtown Scholar, visit www.midtownscholar.com and on Facebook @MidtownScholar.