All kids are different. They have different experiences, different emotional needs, different tastes, and the list goes on and on. While one eighth-grade boy may love reading EPIC by Conor Kostick or ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card, another may find those unique science fiction novels too complex and prefer to read ALIENS ATE MY HOMEWORK by Bruce Coville. Just because the student is an eighth grader doesn't mean they are developmentally ready for a book like CRANK by Ellen Hopkins. The flip-side is also true - just because a student is in the sixth grade doesn't mean they can't handle the intensity of a book like GO ASK ALICE.
"By suppressing materials containing ideas or themes with which they do not agree, censors produce a sterile conformity and a lack of intellectual and emotional growth in students. Freedom in the public schools is central to the quality of what and how students learn." (Reichman, 1993, p.4)
So, that being said, what motivates people to attempt book censorship? Typically, there are four main reasons:
Family Values - would-be censors may feel threatened by changes in accepted and traditional ways of life.
Political Views - a censor may view a work that is thought to advocate radical change as subversive or "un-American."
Religion - a potential censor may view explicitly sexual works and politically or socially unorthodox ideas as attacks on religious faith.
Minority Rights - some censors want their own special group recognized. For example, ethnic minorities and women struggling against long-established stereotypes may want to reject materials that challenge their cause.
(Reichman, 1993, p.16)
As an avid reader, I've always had an interest in censorship issues, but this year I had a personal experience that will remain with me for years. As some of you may know from her blog posts and twitter updates, Ellen Hopkins was scheduled to speak to my eighth graders. I won the author visit in an auction. As you can imagine, the cost of this visit was greatly reduced from her normal school-visit fee so I felt extremely lucky. I prepared the students by going into all of the eighth-grade language arts classes to share information about Ellen, her work, and the upcoming visit. We looked at excerpts and her website to learn about how she creates her National Bestselling works of fiction. The kids were excited. The teachers were excited. I was excited. I sold 45 books in a couple of days for autographing. We were ready. Until....a parent complained about one of her books. The parent didn't feel GLASS should be on the shelves of my middle school. She was given the option of filling out the reconsideration form which is our policy and she took it but, that wasn't good enough. The parent didn't want Ellen Hopkins to even speak at our school. She was given the option of having her child opt-out, but wasn't satisfied. She went to the Superintendent and an immediate meeting was scheduled. (I wasn't invited.) Later that afternoon I received word that Ellen Hopkins wouldn't be allowed to speak at my school. Over 300 kids missed out on the opportunity to hear her because of the drama stirred up by one parent. ALL THIS HAPPENED IN ONE DAY!!!!!!!
So, one week before Ellen was supposed to arrive I had to tell her she couldn't speak at my school. Understandably, she was upset. Not because of the book challenge necessarily, but because of the "uninvite." I felt embarrassed, upset, disappointed and unsupported. I had a huge chunk ripped out of my self-esteem and I feared I was going to hear, "That librarian should be fired," fly out of someone's mouth at any minute. The story spread to newspapers, blogs, news reports, and radio. It was amazing to see the story spread.
My biggest complaint about the media coverage is - everyone focused on the book challenge, which wasn't the problem. Yes, the parent challenged the book and filled out the official paperwork to take GLASS through the reconsideration process, but that is our district's policy. There is no discussion! The injustice was Ellen Hopkins not being allowed to speak to the kids. It was a terrible decision.
The good news is, Ellen Hopkins did come to Oklahoma. With the help of a great friend, I was able to secure an alternate location for her to speak. Approximately 150 teens, parents, teachers, and librarians listened intently as she went through her presentation and then stood in line to get her autograph. It was a wonderful night. Just not what I'd planned. I wanted to see the faces of the eighth graders as a National Bestselling Author talked about writing.
The reconsideration meeting to discuss GLASS hasn't taken place yet. Currently, it is scheduled for November 10th, but it has already been rescheduled once. I get to sit on the committee, but as a non-voting member. I'm interested to see how it goes. Like I said, this is my first experience with censorship.
My beliefs are:
1) One person doesn't have the right to determine what others get to read.
2) Parents should be responsible for monitoring their child's reading.
3) If there is a particular book or subject matter the parent doesn't want their child to read, they need to discuss it with the child.
4) Children need to have a variety of books to choose from in a library.
5) Not every book is right for every child.
6) Sheltering a child isn't necessarily doing them a favor.
7) Reading and discussing books with your child is beneficial.
8) A person should read the ENTIRE book before complaining about it.
9) Telling someone they can't read something only makes them want to read it more.
10) Reading for pleasure is worthwhile.
I appreciate the opportunity appear on the Fantastic Book Reviews blog and look forward to reading everyone's comments about censorship. Consider these questions:
a) Did your parents monitor what you read as a young person?
b) Have you ever been told you couldn't read something?
c) Have you ever read a book that has appeared on a banned or challenged book list?
d) Do you think kids who read books that discuss drugs or sex are more likely to participate in those types of activities in their personal life?
e) What was your experience with your school library? Did it have what you wanted to read? Did you visit it often? Did you talk to your librarian about what you were reading or what you wanted him/her to purchase?
Let's discuss!!! I can't wait to see some of your answers. If you want to get in touch with me, you can email me at email@example.com or visit my blog at http://karinlibrarian.wordpress.com.
Karin a.k.a. KarinLibrarian