We don't need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone
All in all it's just another brick in the wall
All in all you're just another brick in the wall."
Pink Floyd needs to pen a variation on these lyrics that includes librarians. Lately, I have seen far too many posts on Facebook in which librarians who want to exert some control over what kids read. Thought control, book control, level and Lexile control--they are all bricks in the wall, the wall that separates readers from books.
One of the posts was from a librarian who sent en email to teachers asking them to make their students stop checking out the same books (i.e., Diary of a Wimpy Kid) and move on to books that she deemed more suitable for them to read. Really? In a time when we are concerned that more and more kids are turning away from books and to their screens, we decide that pushing them out of their favorite books (and sometimes their comfort zone) is a good technique? The role of the librarian is not to chastise teachers or to reject books kids are actually reading. The role of the librarian is to support and encourage lifelong reading. And sometimes that means letting kids read Diary of a Wimpy Kid AGAIN and AGAIN. No one ever told me I would not read my beloved Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames series books. I never told Nurse Girl to give up on her rereading of Harry Potter (something she still does annually even at age 24). Nor did I snatch the Howliday Inn series books from my middle school kids who loved each new book in the series.
And then there are the other posts. You know the ones, right? They are the, "can I have this book in my library?" posts. This is a bit more difficult. There is a difference, albeit often a tiny one, between selection and censorship. Sometimes we ask about age appropriateness. Other times we are seeking a reason not to include something that might be controversial. It boils down to language, violence, sex, religion, and a few other factors. Here are the Top Ten Challenged Books from 2016:
Top Ten for 2016
Out of 323 challenges recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom
1. This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes
2. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint
3. George written by Alex Gino
Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels”
4. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
Reasons: challenged because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints
5. Two Boys Kissing written by David Levithan
Reasons: challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content
6. Looking for Alaska written by John Green
Reasons: challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation”
7. Big Hard Sex Criminals written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
Reason: challenged because it was considered sexually explicit
8. Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread written by Chuck Palahniuk
Reasons: challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being “disgusting and all around offensive”
9. Little Bill (series) written by Bill Cosby and and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood
Reason: challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author
10. Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell
Reason: challenged for offensive language
And this web site offers much more information as we approach Banned Books Week next week: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/banned.
Let's work hard to be not a brick mason but a person who help lay the foundation for future lifelong readers.