Friday, February 5, 2010

Library in the News - Censorship Watch

As a future librarian, I keep my ear to the ground about what's going on in libraries both in the US and the world at large. Here's an article that came to my attention earlier today about a case of censorship in a school library:

A popular young adult book in the Theisen Middle School Library in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, is being challenged as inappropriate. Ann Wentworth issued a formal complaint with the school district, objecting to “sexual content too mature for 11- to 14-years-olds” in the book One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones. The complaint lists some examples of the inappropriate content from the book, including references to “losing your virginity,” condoms, and a stepmother being called a “controlling bitch.”...
Source: Fond du Lac (Wis.) Reporter, Jan. 29


To all my school librarians out there, do you currently have a selection policy in place just in case a book in your library is challenged? To all my readers, have you ever challenged a book in your child's library? What are your thoughts on this?

Update March 1, 2010: The challenged book is to remain in the library, says the school district. Whoo hoo!

11 comments:

~Jennifer~ said...

Stuff like this always drives me nuts. I have never challenged a book. To think kids between the ages of 11 and 14 don't refer to people as controlling bitches among themselves is ludicrous. And kids younger than 14 talk about virginity a lot. And if they are going to be talking about virginity (or more than talking) info about condoms is good to have.

The people who challenge these things want their children to live in tiny bubbles. They are already getting this information from their friends. At least, there's a chance it might be accurate if they read about it in a book.

Maybe if we were a little more open about things like virginity, condoms, etc, we'd have a little less teen pregnancy and STDs rampaging the middle schools. Just a thought.

Sorry about the rant. This is one of those touchy issues for me.

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

No need to apologize for your 'rant'! You make some great points here. Intellectual freedom in the library is one of my passions, and one of the main reasons I want to be a librarian.

I know that parents hope to protect their children from unpleasant truths, but as you said, to think that adolescents don't know about or discuss these things is to live in denial. Teens want to read books that are realistic and relevant to them, not some idealistic, scrubbed-clean book that they can't hope to relate to and learn from.

Thanks so much for your contributions.

Julie said...

I'm not a parent, but I am a teacher, and the idea of banning books like this is crazy to me. I agree that children shouldn't live in a bubble, and they are going to be exposed to this stuff anyways. As a teacher I've heard the word "bitch" in the halls way more times than I can count.

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Well, first of all, I read this post and then went over to Amazon and bought the book....that's what challenging books does to me...makes me buy it. That's how I discovered the Harry Potter books, LOL.

No, I would NEVER challenge a book in my kid's school...no way. If I ever object to something they are reading, then that's the time to start a discussion with my kids about that topic. I can't imagine ever censoring what my kids read....and if another parent tried to from my kid's school, I can imagine there would be heck to pay (from me!).

Great topic!

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Hell, yeah! By the way, if you haven't ever read Sonya Sones, you're in for a treat.

Marie said...

My library has a selection policy but not, as far as I know, a challenge policy- and it needs one! I work in a religious library and while we've never had a challenge as far as I know, it could always happen. Thanks for posting about this issue- it's so important!

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Thanks for your input, Marie. My library program really pushes developing a selection/challenge policy, but I know quite a few school librarians who don't have one. I think I will probably want to develop one when I get into a school library of my own, because I don't want to get caught unprepared, you know?

Wanda said...

Are you kidding me? Ban a Sonya Sones book — I don't think so!! I gave Sonya Sones' What My Mother Doesn't Know to my daughter as a gift when she was in grade 8 and we both loved it! I have no qualms about passing it down the line to my 9-y.o. in a few years time either. I don't care for the Captain Underpants or Wimpy Kid books but that doesn't mean I didn't let my children read them!

Masterbation and virginity are covered as part of the grade five health unit in our schools around here. Anyone who thinks kids 11 and up aren't curious about sexuality needs to do a little growing up themselves.

unsub said...

Well as a guy, I thought about all those things when I was 14.

I dislike banning any sort of literature, especially when it comes to youth. It's a time where you are searching for identity and forming ideas of your own - what better place to find thoughts from those that have come before you than a library?

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

UnSub~

Exactly! Griff, are you sure you weren't supposed to be a librarian/English teacher? :)

Anonymous said...

My daughter goes to this school and is the one that sugested the book to the libray. I think this is a case where the parent wants the school to parent her child instead of her. If this book is the first her child has heard of condoms or virginity then she has bigger fish the fry and needs to start preparing the nursery for her grandchild.

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