Celebrate the Freedom to Read
The ReaderKidZ wish to thank Ann Jacobus for sharing her thoughts on the censorship of books with our readers.
Many people who agree with the idea of the first amendment, feel differently when it comes to what their children are exposed to. “Sexually explicit,” “inappropriate language,” or the more vague, “unsuitable for any age group,” are the top three reasons books are challenged and sometimes banned, as reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom (via the ALA).
As a mother of four, I understand. Three of the four are over 18 now, but I did not, and do not want my children exposed to anything that could upset or harm them. I’m not sure I was always the best judge, but it’s important, critical even, to know what your children are reading (and watching and playing) and to discuss it with them. However, it’s up to me and my husband, and the professionals—the teachers and librarians—to determine this for each of my children. I wanted BRAVE NEW WORLD, THE CHOCOLATE WAR, FOREVER, and SPEAK waiting for my kids when they were ready. Constantly challenged CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS and HARRY POTTER are responsible for getting them all reading in the first place!
My oldest son is studying Mandarin. He said the Chinese word for censorship is “harmonizing.” The Chinese government is censoring pornography, subversive sites, and even Facebook, to keep the country more harmonious. Parents who want certain children’s books removed from library shelves, no doubt, believe they are harmonizing the library or school for all the children.
7th grade teacher and children’s author, Kate Messner, talks to parents each fall at her school about the books available to her students in the library. She says, in a nutshell, that each student is different, that teachers and librarians have a responsibility to them all (ages 6-15), that there are books for everybody, that all books are obviously not appropriate for all kids, and that parents are not only welcome, but encouraged, to get involved in choosing material for their own children. They are also encouraged to communicate any concerns to the teacher and/or librarian, who will immediately replace a child’s book that makes his parent feel uncomfortable, with another.
Parents are requested to respect the right of other parents to make these decisions for their own children and not to make them for children, other than their own. Pretty straightforward. This kind of communication, clarity, openness, and respect has resulted in a truly harmonious school library.