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Things that make you go hmm.....

I had a great school visit today...well-prepared, enthusiastic kids...great staff. There were paw prints all over the school announcing my visit, and a group of fourth graders had put on a little skit last week for the rest of the school to get them excited about my visit (I asked if they'd perform it for me today and they did...it was wonderful!). This school knows how to do an author visit!

The only thing that disappointed me was they chose not to offer my Truth About Truman School book for sale. It's not so much that they chose not to offer that book for sale that bothered me; it's more the reason WHY they chose not to offer it.

A few years ago, a teacher in that school read James Howe's The Misfits as a classroom read-aloud. Great idea, right? Well, that's what the teacher and the librarian thought...until a parent complained.

Apparently, the parent felt it was "inappropriate" for a teacher to read a book about a gay character out loud in class, and asked that the book be removed from the classroom. It turned into a really big deal. The reconsideration committee met and they voted to keep the book, but they were overruled by the school board. The school board decided the book could remain in the library, but teachers could no longer read it out loud in the classroom.

I was stunned. This is one of the best anti-bullying books I've ever read. What was that school board THINKING??? Sure, kids can still check the book out of the library, but they miss out on something when they can't discuss the book in the classroom.

The librarian went on: "I know the homosexuality is just a rumor in your book, but after what we went through with the other book, we just couldn't take a chance that someone would object. There are some people in the district who think this was a bad decision, but unless you've actually had some experience with censorship, you can't really understand what it's like to face these people..."

Um...I think I have an idea what it might be like...

What was really interesting was it soon became clear that this librarian had no idea what I went through with Fox News just a little over a month ago. In fact, I'm not sure she was even aware I'd published a book called My Mom's Having a Baby.

I do understand where the librarian was coming from...believe me, nobody understands better than I do about people who make judgments about you based on the fact that you support (or wrote) a particular book. And I know she wanted this to be a nice day and she didn't want there to be any controversy hanging over my visit. But to not even give anyone the opportunity to purchase the book should they want to...isn't that censorship, too???

I really hate that one parent's view of one book can affect so many other decisions down the road...


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Apr. 6th, 2011 01:37 pm (UTC)
Dori, I'm filled with a mishmash of feelings after reading your eloquent post. Your visit sounds so fun and wonderful, I'm sorry that it also included dealing with The Truth About Truman School banned from sale. (I LOVE that book, by the way. Soooooo good.)

I understand a bit about where the librarian is coming from. I haven't faced censorship myself, but having seen the reaction you received recently was bad enough. And yet it makes me want to fight even harder to protect our American right to read! You're absolutely right, of course, about the value of class discussion--and this is a PUBLIC school. it should prepare kids to face the world as it is. The US is built upon the ideals of multiculturalism and diversity. If someone doesn't like that, maybe they shouldn't have their kids in public school.

Moreover, one person should not be dictating what an entire class--and subsequent classes and other classes across the school and the district--reads. People need to stand up for books, the right to read, and intellectual freedom. To do so, they need huge amounts of support. I wish this librarian felt that she had that. We all need to stand up for these elemental American values.

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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