Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banned Book Week: Being a Parent is Hard...

...even when it comes to books.   Let me share a story with you.

When people say they are against banning books, they may think of books like The Bluest Eye, To Kill a Mockingbird, or Catcher in the Rye.  They may think of the readers as their friends, neighbors, or teenage nieces.  However, certain readers require a more gentle approach.  Do I believe in banning books for young children?  No.  But, there should be some adult involvement when young children are choosing books from the library.

What's a parent to do??

A little girl goes into the grammar school library with her Kindergarten class.  In this library, there is a special "Easy" section for children who enjoy picture books and books for beginning readers. 

Many of the children get a thrill over being able to choose ANY book they want from these shelves, and parents and teachers both want to foster a love of reading any way they can.

This little girls grabs a book with a cover she loves - there is a soccer ball on the cover, her favorite sport, and the little girl even has a sister, just like her!  She takes her book up to the librarian for check out, brings the book back to class, and walks passed the teacher to put it in her backpack to bring it home. 

My Big Sister Takes DrugsShe gets home from school, and asks her mom, an avid reader herself and an educator in her own right, to read the book with her.  The mom pulls out the book...entitled My Big Sister Takes Drugs by Judith Vigna.  I should point out that the reading level on My Big Sister Takes Drugs is ages 4 to 8, but the School Library Journal recommends this book for Grades 2 and up.

I should probably also point out that this Kindergartner's big sister is in 2nd grade.  Needless to say, the parents of this particular girl chose not to read the book to her, but were rightfully upset that she had access to a such a book in the first place.

So, what is a parent to do?  What is a school to do?
BAN the book??

No, I'm not saying we should ban this book, and neither were the girl's parents, as I'm sure there are children that would benefit from reading a book like this, but I do believe that there should be a reality check when it comes to young children.  

Parents trust the education of their children to the schools - an education that includes the instruction of the librarian.  When the librarian and the teacher saw this book being checked out by a 5 year old, didn't either of them think that this might not be the right book for her?  Remember that all of her siblings are under the age of 10, and this is a rural area that sees very little of the drug and violence some other inner city cultures deal with on a daily basis.

Now what?

The book has not been banned, it has been moved to the guidance counselor's office.  It is still accessible for children should they be in such a situation, but it is away from the Easy section.  I am very happy with this decision.  Yes, it's there for kids who might need it, but it's keeping it out of the hands of small children, many of whom don't even know what drugs are!  Young children require supervision and guidance. 

In Conclusion

It is Banned Book Week, and being a parent makes this issue very different from when I was a college student.  Nothing has changed me more than a parent has.  I have a new perspective when it comes to children's books.  Don't worry, I will still be the first person in line to defend a book being challenged in a high school or middle school.  Teenagers are ready for ideas outside the safety net provided by mom and dad, if their mom and dad choose to allow it for their own teens.  When we are talking about children under the age of 10, there is a gray area, and I prefer to proceed with the most amount of caution.

100 Best Books for Children: A Parent's Guide to Making the Right Choices for Your Young Reader, Toddler to Preteen The New York Times Parent's Guide to the Best Books for Children: 3rd Edition Revised and Updated 


Michelle Greathouse said...

I could not agree with you more. :) Thank you for making this post.

Heather J. said...

Excellent point. As parents we all want to keep our kids safe and expose them to the world's problems in as slow and careful a way as possible. That makes book choices very difficult indeed.

Alison's Book Marks said...

I hate to admit it, but when I first found out that the library was pulling a book from the library, I immediately got into my DEFEND THE BOOK! mode. Then, I took a step back and realized why. It's not gone, just moved to a more approprate section for this school.

Michelle and Heather - thanks for stopping by and I'm glad that I'm not alone on this one!

bermudaonion said...

Hm, I'm going to have to think about this for a while. The parents could have taken the opportunity to talk to that 5 year old about drugs - believe me there are drugs in rural areas, too. That's where a lot of meth labs are located. I know we started talking to our son about drugs pretty early. Having said all of that, I like the way the parent and the school handled that situation.

Marva Dasef said...

My parents, being as neglectful as parents could be, had a bookshelf (quite small) with books which I'm relatively certain they'd never read nor heard of.

At age 10, I read Tales of the Decameron by Boccacio. Did it warp me for life? No. It opened my mind to the fact that there was more than Disney-interpreted fairy tales.

In 8th grade, I got the exulted position of library helper. I read books before the other kids even got a shot at them. Hoo boy! I told the librarian that certain books might not be appropriate for younger readers.

Hey, was I ever wrong! If I could read it, why not the rest of the class?

Don't worry. Let you child read whatever they find interesting.

Quit being a helicopter parent. Never works anyway.

Alison's Book Marks said...

Kathy - I'm not sure what I would have done with the book if it were my 5 year old who brought it home, only because it's a book I've never read. If there's one thing I always tell parents who aren't sure if their child is ready for a book, like Twilight for example, is to read the book themselves. Only the parent can decide what is or is not appropriate for THEIR child.

Marva - I find childhood too short these days, because we thrust them into the harsh light of reality too soon. My children are still VERY young. As they get older and more mature, I will lift that veil how and when I deem fit. I have one avid reader on my hands and he is already reading books well beyond his grade level; however, I think he has his whole life to read about the horrors of war, the sensuality of sex, and the harshness of drugs. We'll stick to Harry Potter and Percy Jackson! He's simply not ready - no helicopter required for me to say that.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Nicely put Alison. Wonderful post. I like that the book is moved, yet available to those who may need it.

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