Dear Reader

Random musings on reading and books from a librarian in training.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Trying to ban words and more

Sadly the drumbeat against books remains steady. Despite seeing this crop up repeatedly, I’m always surprised when I read about people challenging books. The fight over who can read what is usually most intense in schools.

Some recent cases:

I recently read on the blog Jezebel about mother in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin who recently sought to have six books banned from the school library arguing the content was too advanced for middle schoolers. She wanted the following books removed:

"Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants " by Ann Brashares.
"The Second Summer of the Sisterhood" by Ann Brashares.
"Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood" by Ann Brashares.
"Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood" by Ann Brashares.
"Get Well Soon" by Julie Halpern.
"What My Mother Doesn't Know" by Sonya Sones.

The kicker: the school has software that enables parents to list materials they don’t want their children to read. If the child tries to take out restricted materials, the librarian receives an alert.

In a truly bizarre case, one school district in California yanked the dictionary from classrooms. Yes, the dictionary. The Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary was pulled after a parent complained that the definition of oral sex was included and was inappropriate material for younger students. According to reports, the dictionaries were being used by students in the fourth and fifth grade.

It takes an incredible amount of hubris to think we have the right to dictate what books other people and other people’s children should be allowed to read. If you’re concerned about your child reading books you don’t approve, speak with your child’s teacher or school librarian. Don’t assume it’s okay to impose your moral standards on everyone else and infringe on the learning process.

According to the Northwestern.com, author Sonya Sones wrote, "If Ms. Wentworth thinks the book is inappropriate for her own child, then by all means she should not allow her child to read it. But it would be unfair and inappropriate for her to try to force her own personal beliefs on every family with children attending Theisen Middle School, or any other school in the district."

Revisiting the dictionary.

It’s extremely na├»ve to think that kids today won’t be able to learn what oral sex is because they don’t have access to a dictionary with the definition. If they are curious enough I’m sure there are plenty of sources they can turn to.

The fight continues to ensure that a few don’t dictate what many, can or can’t read.

Additional Reading
Riverside school goes too far in banning dictionary

Parent adds 6 books to those she wants banned from school library

Traveling Pants Stays Put: A Parent's Failed Book Banning

Parent loses fight to get books banned at Fond du Lac middle school

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