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Harvey Milk picture book teaches children about LGBTQ history

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“Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag” teaches kids about the famed social activist and the iconic gay-rights symbol.

When Rob Sanders followed news coverage the day the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 2015 landmark decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, he was struck by one symbol that seemed ever-present throughout the day.

“It seemed like the entire world was suddenly a rainbow,” the teacher and writer told NBC News. “Niagara Falls had rainbow lights shining on it, the White House had rainbow lights shining on it, and it dawned on me that this was a story that kids needed to know. They didn’t know the origin of the pride flag or its importance to our community, and I wanted to tell that story.”

The result is a new children’s book, “Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag,” written by Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno. The picture book tells the story of famed social activist Harvey Milk and his collaboration with Gilbert Baker, the man who in 1978 designed what has become one of the most iconic symbols for the LGBTQ community: the rainbow pride flag.

The book starts with the story of Harvey Milk — described as “an ordinary man” with “an extraordinary dream” — and his path to becoming in 1977 one of the first openly gay people elected to public office in the U.S. The story then goes on to describe Milk’s collaboration with Baker in the creation of the rainbow pride flag, which debuted on June 25, 1978, at San Francisco’s gay pride march.

Sanders, who has been writing picture books for children since 2012, said he relied on history books, news footage, documentaries and podcasts in order to conduct research for his book. Through this research, he learned that it took many volunteers from the community to bring Baker’s iconic design to life.

“Volunteers came, dyed the fabric by hand, cut and stitched it together,” Sanders explained, saying the flag didn’t just suddenly appear. “A group of people had their hand on it, [and it] symbolizes the way the community is today. That it really does take different parts to form the whole.”

Sanders stressed that it is important to share the stories of historical figures like Harvey Milk, who was assassinated in November 1978, and Gilbert Baker, who died just last year, to a new generation to ensure the impact of such individuals isn’t lost or forgotten.