professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Earlier this week I was part of a radio interview about Banned Books Week with ReLeah Lent. The 45 minutes flew past as the host asked questions about challenges and what teachers and librarians can do before and after challenges. One incredibly insightful comment from ReLeah: even one challenge is too much in response to a question about the number of challenges this year compared to the past. We also talked about gatekeeping being responsible for the fact that the numbers are not what is important. There are teachers and librarians who are not adding books to their collection for fear of the materials being challenged. This is still censorship, but it does not get reported. I wonder what we might discover if we surveyed teachers to ask which books were part of their collections and which were not? Would TWO BOYS KISSING be simply ignored by educators? Do elementary collections include AND TANGO MAKES THREE or DADDY'S ROOMMATE? Some food for thought as Banned Books Week approaches. BSP: I will be part of a Twitter chat sponsored by NCTE along with Judy Blume and Laurie Halse Anderson on Sunday, September 22, at 8 ET.

This summer there was a challenge to Sherman Alexie's ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PRT TIME INDIAN in New York. It was required reading for all incoming sixth graders. And herein lies a problem. Requiring everyone to read the same book often will lead to some problems. In tis case, a paent objected and not just for her child. Had there been some choice, some alternatives, there might still have been an objection. However, a little forethought and planning might have avoided having the book removed totally.

Here is an excellent example of attempting to level books:

Here we find Harry Potter recommended for early elementary and Blood and Chocolate and Athletic Shorts recommended for late elementary. I appreciate the listing of banned books, but when the source makes errors such as these (and there are many more), it exacerbates the problem.

On a personal level, I have only on one occasion kept one of my own kids from reading a book when College Girl wanted to read THE LOVELY BONES when she was in 4th grade. It was right after the death of her mother, and I just felt she needed to hold off on this book for a while (she did and ultimately read it a couple of years later and found it not her cup of tea). Otherwise, I have followed Judy Blume's advice and simply let them pick up books at will knowing that they would soon put down the ones that they were not ready for.

The thing is that censorship is not a neat, tidy topic at all. The good news is that NCTE and ALA have copious resources for educators.

Might I suggest that everyone do some things in advance of a challenge:

1. Know the reconsideration of materials policy for your school/district. If you do not have one, write one. ALA can help with samples.
2. Read through the resources from NCTE and ALA.
3. Resolve to stand firm against any challenge. As ReLeah noted, even one challenge is one too many.
Tags: cesnorship
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