- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The nation’s book-loving library patrons should expect to see more of Kirk Cameron.

The Christian actor and former teen star is making plans to read his children’s book “As You Grow” at public libraries across the nation after igniting a cultural backlash with overflow crowds at his first appearances last month in Indianapolis and in Scarsdale, New York.

Mr. Cameron’s next reading is scheduled for Saturday at the Placentia Library in Orange County, California, according to publisher Brave Books. What’s driving the readings, he said, is popular demand for the book’s traditional, faith-based message.

“The public plea to come to their communities has been overwhelming for us, and so I’m trying to do my best to answer the call,” Mr. Cameron told The Washington Times. “We’re going to try to go to as many of these libraries as possible across the West Coast and the East Coast and the heartland: Chicago, Denver, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia. We want to go to as many of them as we can.”

For Mr. Cameron, selling books is beside the point. His aim is to counter the cultural drift to the left in a “fight for the hearts and minds of our kids.”

“Why do you think drag queens are touring the country speaking at public libraries to 3-year-olds? Well, there’s only one reason. It’s because people understand that whoever gets to tell the stories to children controls the future,” he said. “Parents are now realizing God gave our children to us, not to government institutions or to drag queens. So we need to tell them the stories. We need to teach them about faith and virtue and moral character.”

He said “these are the things that lead to blessing and freedom and prosperity.”

Mr. Cameron is on his library tour during a popular rise in drag queen story hours, which were launched in San Francisco in 2015 to combat bigotry, promote diversity and give children “glamorous, positive and unabashedly queer role models,” according to the Drag Story Hour website.

Jonathan Hamilt, Drag Story Hour’s executive director, said he has discouraged the group’s supporters from protesting at Mr. Cameron’s readings or leaving disparaging comments on his social media accounts.

“Our mission and our vision are to focus on our own programming, and we’re not here to mess with Kirk or what he’s doing,” Mr. Hamilt said.

Brave Books rented public meeting rooms in Indianapolis and Scarsdale after more than 50 public libraries ignored or rejected requests to host Mr. Cameron, though they had sponsored drag queen readings.

The response was enormous. Mr. Cameron gave two readings at both libraries to accommodate crowds that far exceeded the capacity of the meeting rooms.

Public libraries may decide which readings to sponsor but may not deny access to meeting rooms “even to individuals or groups that are considered offensive or controversial,” the Scarsdale library said in a statement about Mr. Cameron’s reading.

“Because it’s illegal to stop me or anybody from coming, they have to allow you to be able to rent some private space in the library. So that’s what they did,” said Mr. Cameron. “They let us rent a room in the back of the [Indianapolis] library on the sixth floor. I think what they didn’t expect was to have 2,500 people fill that floor and other floors, and line up outside the door.”

The Indianapolis library disputed the publisher’s estimate of 2,500 people and put the figure at 750. Either way, the attendance exceeded expectations.

“I don’t think any of us really realized how strongly this message of wanting to return to biblical wisdom and the fruit of the spirit was going to resonate in the hearts of these moms and dads,” Mr. Cameron said.

He said his book, the story of a seed that grows into a giant tree, “should not be controversial.”

“We’re talking about teaching children about love, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control, and yet we were denied by over 50 woke libraries who have hosted drag queen story hours,” Mr. Cameron said.

For Mr. Cameron, 52, the unconventional book tour represents the latest pivot in a life lived largely in the public eye. He started with small roles as a child actor before becoming a teen sensation as a star of the ABC sitcom “Growing Pains.”

He has since appeared mainly in Christian films such as “Fireproof” and the “Left Behind” series. He and his wife, Chelsea Noble, have six children, four of whom are adopted, and started Camp Firefly, a camp for seriously ill children and their families outside Atlanta.

Mr. Cameron said people attending his reading in Scarsdale thanked him for venturing into their solidly blue state.

“We were just greeted by an overwhelming flood of loving, caring grandparents and concerned moms and dads and patriots, who said, ‘Thank you for coming, thank you for not overlooking us here in New York,’” Mr. Cameron said. “People pass us by thinking that we want all this woke garbage, and we don’t. We stand with you. We want what you’re bringing.’”

A few protesters have attended Mr. Cameron’s library events, but Mr. Hamilt said such demonstrations could backfire.

“We’re not going to feed the flame of helping right-wing media create this narrative that we lost against Kirk or something silly,” Mr. Hamilt said. “He’s able to reserve a room in the library like anyone else, and he can read his book, and that’s fine. We’re still doing our programming.”

Brave Books has encouraged others to hold readings at public libraries as part of its Brave Story Hour initiative and has offered to provide discounted books and other support.

Mr. Cameron led a busy life before the book tour, but he emphasized that “anybody who loves America needs to make time for this.”

“We’re at a critical time in our nation’s history. If we don’t do something now, we’re going to lose so much ground that we’re going to wake up one day and find we’ve lost the vision of what liberty and freedom even is,” Mr. Cameron said. “And there’s going to be no one to blame but parents when children ask us, ‘What was it like in America when it was free? When it was good?’ If we lose faith and moral integrity, then we’re done.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide