I applaud the efforts of teachers and librarians and others involved in the business of connecting kids and boooks. I applaud them when they select a book because it is appropriate for the developmental needs of the readers with whom they work. I applaud their resistance to select or NOT select a book just because of it popularity or demand. I applaud those who know their audience of readers well, who apply criteria for selecting books for those readers.
In light of this discussion, then, it was ironic to receive an email from a grad student who has a challenge right now in her library centered on the book WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN'T KNOW by Sonya Sones. A parent feels the book would be more appropriate in the high school and not in the junior high at all. This librarian is following the Reconsideration of Materials Policy. She put together a committee and asked them all to read the book. She went and looked up reading and interest levels of the book and reviews. She sent me an email asking me what else to do. Her fear is that the teachers on the committee seem to feel as though the book should be in high school. She feels it has an audience in the middle school, too, especially among the more mature kids. Sticky wicket, tbis policy.
I advised her to check with schools in the area to see where they had the book shelved. It is not a book that is required reading. It is simply on the shelves. Ultimately, I told her she needs to trust the process. If the committee recommends removing the book and sending it to the high schoo, if the policy has been followed, then pass the book along. Is this censorship?? Well, the initiating incident is. The parent who wants the book removed is seeking to censor. She does not want her own child to read the book. Fine. Gtreat (and no irony intended here). But you do not want any other child to have access? NOPE. Not fine or great.
My kids never lacked for banned books (grin) as I would always allow them to pick up books and read them without interference. But I worry about the vast majority of kids whose parents do not 1) have access to tons of books; 2) have time to take kids to the public library (if it is open and funded) to find books not in the school collections; 3) permit their kids free access to books and ideas; or 4) have parents who believe books an save lives, change lives, improve lives.
So, why do I rail against censors? As many more eloquent folks have said: every time a book is taken from a reader, the conversation that could have taken place is lost.