While I am head over heels with this new infusion of books, I know that there will be the inevitable challenges to books as well. The censors are alive and well. Every single time I think I have seen it all, I am surprised by yet another challenge. This piece from the Huffington Post has some terrific links about censorship: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/23/banned-books_n_4492881.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003.
In there spirit of the New Year, here are my suggestions for being proactive when it comes to book challenges:
1. Make sure you read books before handing them off to kids. I know folks disagree here, but I knew all the books in my classroom library, even if I had just skimmed some of the titles (books in series). If you cannot do that, then have a collection development policy in place that describes the process you use to include books in the classroom library.
2. If you do use books for Lit Circles, make sure you have read those. If you think any might be problematic (see the ALA OIF's chart which indicates the chief reasons people challenge books), prepare a rationale (or find one already prepared by NCTE for instance). Clip positive reviews. See if other schools are also using these books.
3. Please, please, please stop using ONE book for everyone: those whole class novels are often the target of challenges. Not all kids are ready for the same book. Choice is not only important, it can help you avoid challenges if you have alternative selections kids can make.
4. Make sure you have a policy for material reconsideration in your school. Ask the librarian for a copy. Know the steps. Follow them.
5. Know there is help out there should you need it. ALA OIF, NCAC, FRTF, NCTE SCAC: if you do not know what these are, find out NOW.
The best defense is a good offense (Super Bowl is approaching and I find myself spouting sports metaphors of late). Be prepared.