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Friday, May 1, 2009

Handling a Group of Witch-Hunting Grown-Ups

This stuff still happens? In a way. This brief article posted at the School Library Journal provides some guidance for librarians dealing with parents who want to remove "objectional" books from the library. Definitely of interest to teachers who use novels which might be deemed controversial.

Be sure to read all the entries. One parent group concerned about gang activities at the local mall wants to remove all books dealing with gang themes from the library. First of all, does this mean that modern-day classics like The Outsiders and time-honored treasures such as Romeo and Juliet will be banned for the gang-related topics? And secondly, are Bloods and Crips really turning to the public library for how-to advice?

My take on this? First, educate parents. Provide them with information which summarizes the books you're teaching, while at the same time providing a rationale; in other words, why this book and not another?

Second, have a fall-back book for those students whose parents object to the title you're using. For example, if a parent objects to The Devil's Arithmetic, substitute another Holocaust-related novel. The two books can address identical themes, and be assessed by nearly identical means. This respects the parents' wishes for their children while maintaining control of the instruction and curriculum within your own classroom.

Third, be sure that all books you're using have been approved (including read-alouds and micro-texts). You want the district behind you should an offended parent come out swinging!

You might also want to check out Amazon's list of banned books. You won't believe some of the titles that appear here, nor the reasons why they're found to be so offensive!


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