It’s happening again. Out here in the progressive western suburbs one parent is making a stink about what is arguably the best young adult novel to come along in years: The Fault In Our Stars. Here’s what this dad has to say about the book:
Now. He admits to not even finishing the book all the way through. His chief complaint appears to be the sexual content in the book, which is actually a paragraph or so, and is alluded to by Hazel Grace, the narrator. As sex scenes go, it’s pretty harmless:
The whole affair was the precise opposite of what I figured
it would be: slow and patient and quiet and neither particularly
painful nor particularly ecstatic. There were a lot of condomy
problems that I did not get a particularly good look at. No head-
boards were broken. No screaming. Honestly, it was probably
the longest time we’d ever spent together without talking.
This father doesn’t say how old his daughter is, but we know from his blog that she’s in middle school, and that he is uncomfortable reading the book to her. His solution? Have the book removed from the library.
One of the first things we are taught in library school is to help our students learn intellectual freedom. This responsibility might be the hardest part of the librarian’s job, as it requires us to think critically about the books we buy. It’s also why a librarian might buy a book for a library and have it on the shelf, but not market it to students too young to really get anything from it. Which brings us back to our dad. I’m guessing his daughter is on the younger side of middle school, but I guarantee on her last day as an eighth grader, he will be astounded by the young lady who walks out the doors of that school. So much transformation takes place between the first day of sixth grade and the last day of eighth. Try as we might, there is nothing we can do to stop it. Banning a book won’t keep a kid from growing up.
So, parents: a few reasons to stop fearing these big bad books:
Reason #1. The very book you try to hide from your kid is the one she’ll end up reading at her friend’s house. Remember Forever by Judy Blume or Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews? Many a summer afternoon was spent at my friend’s house holed up with these gems! It’s worth noting that I read Forever and did not feel compelled to lose my virginity. I also read Flowers in the Attic and did not embark on an incestuous affair with my brother. Okay, I didn’t have a brother, but you get my point.
Reason #2. My dad has a great quote (and he’s a very quotable guy): “A kid was never corrupted by a book.” He’s absolutely right. It’s the kids who never read anything that we might have to worry about.
Reason #3. Sad but true: conversations overheard across the aisle of the bus are far worse and way filthier than anything available on the shelves of a typical middle school library.
Reason #4. Every piece of literature has value. Twilight, anyone? I remember reading it and tossing it aside, but the discussion I had with my daughter afterwards about being so obsessed with a dude that you couldn’t think straight, and how unhealthy that is, was priceless. Also the bad writing is a lesson in itself.
Reason #5. Bibliotherapy. Simply put, it’s the use of literature to help a person through a dark time. So many of the themes addressed in the books parents love to hate are the very things their kids start to struggle with in middle school: popularity, sexual identity, bullying and so on. Last spring, a parent in Glen Ellyn tried to get The Perks of Being a Wallflower removed from a classroom. It wasn’t even in the library! My belief is that if this book helped one single kid through the zoo that is middle school, then it belongs on the shelf.
Bottom line: choose age appropriate books for your child, and don't punish the rest of us by trying to remove books from the library that have real value and resonate with kids.
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