The lady with the head of flowers, oversized pink reading glasses and leather heels turned the page on a small book and pointed to a picture of a raccoon standing upright.
“Can you walk on your tiptoes?” they asked the room full of children, who happily obliged. “I have to in these shoes.”
The parents laughed, and Chase Adams’s bright purple lips smiled before they continued on with the story.
Adams, a local drag performer whose real name is Ryan Gallant, was the latest guest reader at Kootenay Kids. Every Wednesday the childcare centre, when possible, invites a community member to spend 15 minutes reading and interacting with kids and parents.
With the exception of Pride events, such as a brunch held earlier this year, Adams rarely wears drag during the day. Their performance outfit, they said, is far more provocative than the heavily accessorized yellow and black dress they borrowed from their partner for story time.
“It’s couture,” Adams quipped.
There were no questions from the group about Adams — the target audience was too young to discuss topics such as gender identity — but Adams said just being there helps children and parents learn about diversity and acceptance.
They pointed to their three-year-old daughter Ella, who was in the audience for the reading, as their biggest fan.
“The kids don’t have that filter about gender or expectations,” said Adams. “It’s more about fun and being able to be accepting. They’re our greatest teachers. To see kids almost not even think twice about the whole getup is so great because it’s learned later about acceptance and different biases.
“So it’s great for them to get this experience when they are younger so they know it’s OK to be whatever they want to be.”
Previous readers have included a pair of grandmothers and a letter carrier, with a chef set to visit for Halloween. Nicole Purvis, the children’s playgroup facilitator at Kootenay Kids, said the centre had been looking for the right person to do a drag story time.
“Drag story time is a thing that happens in bigger cities but hasn’t happened here yet,” said Purvis. “We’ve been talking about it for a while, the literacy community has been talking about it. It was just a matter of finding somebody who was willing.
“Chase is a member of the parenting community in Nelson, so Chase was a really natural fit and was willing and has a comfort with young children. So it was a perfect fit. I’m not sure we knew we would find that.”