I follow several blogs, nings, Twitter chats, and more for school librarian issues. This is just one of the ways I keep a pulse on best practice and opportunities or ideas to implement in my own practice. Generally it is effective and I highly recommend this. Today I found a gem to share from the Facebook group sponsored by the School Librarian’s Workshop. It seems a teacher came to the school librarian with the following dilemma.
The scenario–a request for advice by an 8th grade teacher to the school librarian:
During the morning the students read for 20 minutes of AR time. A home room teacher came to me with some concerns about one of her 8th grade students reading Shades of Grey during their AR time. Of course this is a book the student brought from home and NO it does not have an AR test.
The teacher and I both are very concerned about the book being shared with other students and just how appropriate the book is for an 8th grade girl.
First of all, it pleases me immensely that this teacher went to the school librarian first for advice.
Second, what AWESOME timing! It is Banned Books Week this week, and well, this is just the kind of scenario in a school that can be a catalyst for assaulting intellectual freedom. The overall result might be blatant censorship that affects the entire school and perhaps even spill out into the community. Wow, if that were to happen, 1 for censorship, 0 for the school library, an innocent bystander program. That is, unless it’s handled appropriately.
Perhaps FIRST this is a conversation to have in private with the student, either by the teacher or the school librarian. While I agree we as educators should be promoting intellectual freedom, um, we are also supposed to promote the core beliefs of our school community. Fine–her Mom is allowing her 13yo to read a very adult book that has mature content (or so we are led to believe anyway…which somehow I don’t…but that is beside the point.) But the rest of the class should be taken into consideration, and well, 13yo boys and girls are curious and easily titillated.
Kids are curious by nature
This book might probably draw quite a bit of curiosity, potentially become the “one” passed around to get jollies over passages of text, and grow into a huge distraction in classroom. If an when that happens, the integrity of the reading time is at risk. Seeking administrative counsel on an issue such as this opens the door for every book in the library to be judged again, above and beyond the already established collection development policy for putting books on a school library shelf, and this despite that the book in question is NOT a school library book. Knee-jerk responses are so typical, especially in a climate ripe for censorship.
Not worth a big scene
How would I handle it considering all this? I would try not to cause a big scene, but rather pull the student aside and ask them to read “that book” at home only, and not bring it to school. You might have to phone home to the parent too with the same conversation, though it may not be necessary. But be careful to keep judgement out of the request–to the student or the parent. We are not censors, but instead taking measures to keep a book from becoming an explosive opportunity for censorship to rear its ugly head. The student (and parent too) don’t have to be told anything other than the book is too mature for a school audience, and should be read off campus. Be ready also with alternative titles. Hopefully that will be the end of the issue. Saying that, if the student continues to bring the book, or worse, the parent response is not supportive of this request, I certainly would ask for administrative attention, but carefully outline the measures I took to the administrative team before calling for this guidance.
Feels sort of like a ticking-bomb, no? (And maybe my suggestion here shows that I’m a closet censor??) Anyway, good luck to the school librarian and teacher with this one.
AR, please not again!
PS – Sorry, not going to touch my horrified shock at a school requiring 20 minutes for AR Reading. That’s another post for another time. Sigh.