November 17, 2017

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Open Door Policy for All Students | Scales on Censorship

1510-Scales-OpenDoorA parent has challenged my policy that K–5 students may not come to the library until second semester. I do take a cart of books to the K–5 classrooms, but this parent wants his son to have access to more books. He actually told me that I’m censoring his son by limiting his choices.
I must side with the parent. I don’t understand your policy. The best way to foster the love of books is to expose young children to a vast array of choices. They need time to browse the library. Many will migrate toward books that you tell them about or titles that have been read aloud to them. But they shouldn’t be limited to a few books you offer on a library cart.

I’m an elementary school librarian, but I’m interested in moving to a middle school. I took a young adult literature class in graduate school this summer, and I was appalled at the content of some of the books. This makes me nervous about working with older students. Are there any safe books for this age?
There is no such thing as a “safe” book at any age. Even the Mother Goose rhymes have been banned in some elementary schools, and so have most fairy tales. Shel Silverstein’s poetry, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, William Steig’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, and E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web are on the Challenged/Banned Books List. If you are going to work with adolescents, then you need to understand the topics and themes that speak to them. You must not let your personal reaction to a book affect how you serve readers, because you and your students lose if you become too judgmental. Perhaps your comfort level is with younger students.

An English teacher in my high school wants to use M.E. Kerr’s Deliver Us from Evie (HarperCollins, 1994) with one of her classes, but she’s nervous since another teacher told her that it has been banned in some schools. I have found a number of blogs that list it as a banned book, but I can’t find any specifics. Where do bloggers get their information? How do I reassure the teacher?
I don’t know where these bloggers get their information. The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom confirms that there have been challenges, but none that are public. This means the institutions that reported the challenges asked to remain anonymous. The reason cited is the “gay-lesbian” theme.

I hope the teacher who wants to use the book has read it. And if she has, then she should know how to lead students in a discussion about “tolerance” and “acceptance.” Let the teacher know that just because the book has been challenged somewhere doesn’t mean she will get challenges. If she does get questions, then be there for her.

I’m a children’s librarian in a midsize public library. The teen section is in close proximity to the children’s room. Parents who bring their young children to the library have complained about the behavior of some teens. I spoke with the teen librarian, and she became very defensive.
You don’t state what type of behavior is offensive to the parents. Is it simply a noise issue? Is it public display of affection? Or, are the teens teasing and bullying the younger children? If you can’t work this out with the teen librarian, then it needs to be addressed in a staff meeting. Does your library have a “behavior policy”? If so, check to see if the complaints of the parents are addressed within the policy. Either way, it may be time to write a policy or amend the existing one.

My school PTA has a volunteer coordinator, and she has told me that there are a number of parents who have asked to work in the library. I’m worried that such parent involvement may make us vulnerable to censorship issues.
Many schools would welcome such parent involvement. Don’t create a problem before it happens. These volunteers may actually support you if other parents raise issues. Make sure that you offer them training that includes library policies and best practices.

This article was published in School Library Journal's October 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Pat Scales About Pat Scales

Pat Scales is the former chair of the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee. You can send your questions or comments on censorship to her at pscales@bellsouth.net.

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Comments

  1. Kimalee Lawrence says:

    WHY IS CHARLOTTES WEB BANNED???????!!!