A letter to Kershaw County School District via their PR person and an associate superintendent who were “Instrumental” in having the book Angry Management removed from a summer reading list. This is in direct response to Chris Cructher’s response that I blogged about yesterday.
First let me say thank you two and Mr. Douglas Berry for once again bringing our state into the spotlight of the national arena. Too bad it’s for something negative.
I just read a response directed at you two and Mr Berry by none other than the award winning young adult author Chris Crutcher, and I find it shocking that one parent can determine what is appropriate or good for an entire district of young adults. By the way, just incase you weren’t sure, the book, Angry Management, IS a young adult novel. It is intended for high school students who are on the cusp of adulthood, and not for children. It is one book of 40 “recommended” titles. It is a wonderful book that teaches about friendship, bigotry, and much more, giving our students a way to experience issues in a safe environment through a book as well as teach them how to handle these sensitive issues vicariously through a story.
But apparently that does not matter to your district. Nor does it matter that each school in your district has a certified school librarian who has been trained to read reviews and select books that fit their school and community. A certified librarian in the state of South Carolina studies in pedagogy as well as library and information science, and this means advanced training and minimum a Master’s Degree level of education. We are trained in program management, teaching information literacy, and providing an effective program that enables our students to become life-long learners and effective users of information. We have learned to match resources with our students based on interests and curriculum, and So I can say with assuredness the decision to add the book to the reading list and collection was done so with the care and thought it requires. The committees that create such a list are comprised of professionally trained educators who understand reading and its impact.
By removing a book like Angry Management even from a recommended reading list, you are undermining the professionals you have hired to make decisions for their respective schools. And you did it based on ONE parent’s objections. I have to wonder if your district has a challenge policy and whether or not they followed through with this policy. Most school districts bring together a committee to review a book in question, and the said book cannot even be challenged until the challenger has read it in full. By his own admission, Mr. Berry says he read only 24 pages. In a challenge committee, usually there is representation by students, teachers, administrators, an unbiased community member, and the parent. The committee is challenged to read the book and then bring to the table a discussion on the merits of the book before deciding how to handle the objection.
By the time students reach high school, getting them to read books for pleasure is a struggle all by itself. Yet studies show that students who read perform better in school. For this reason, schools try to put together a recommended reading list that has wide appeal to their students to ensure that students will continue to read, and thus improve their performance in schools. The list is broad in interest, levels, and topics in hopes of getting students to read. Not every book is appropriate in terms of level, topics, or even interest. This title in particular has appeal to struggling readers due to the nature of it being a series of short stories. It also appeals to boys, a whole other issue librarians and educators have to deal with in trying to get our students reading. Byt the time many kids get to high school, if they are not already an avid reader, educators must work diligently to interest them in the task.
I find it commendable that the parent, Mr. Berry, decided to read the material his son was offered as a summer read. Far too often we have parents who leave the entire educational component of raising children to the school. While I can sympathize with his concern for expletives used in the story lines, I think this father missed a golden opportunity to have an authentic discussion about family values and morals. He missed the opportunity to have his son interact with him around topics and issues that are hard to discuss in any context. The perfect opportunity and teachable moment was lost upon this overprotective father. To make matters worse, this father has decided the entire district’s young adults should not have the same opportunities. Sad.
I will end by thanking your district as well. By now, the son whose father made this book the topic of a challenge, thus censoring an entire district, has probably read the book. Nothing like a good ol’ ruckus over a book to make an entire community of any age run right out and read it. So in essence you (the district office and the parent) have failed in your endeavors to “protect” your youth. Fringe benefit of this whole ugly issue is that kids all over our state are now clamoring to read this book as well as others written by Chris Crutcher.
Links of Interest: