Monday, October 4, 2010

Controversial books and schools - can there be a solution?

I went away for the weekend and read blogs, something I seldom have time to do. I read blogs about book banning and censorship and then read the comments. My friends can tell you how heated it got. I sent some links to my husband and proceeded to talk for hours with him about his opinions. He tends to lean towards conservative and I tend to lean towards liberal, although we both sit squarely in the middle.

I've thought of a solution that might work and wonder if it's been considered in the school districts. (Let me say up front, I homeschool and am an assistant librarian in a public library. Just want to throw that out there so there's no confusion.)

What about a signed permission slip for middle school and/or high school? A list of books could be placed on it, sent home to the parents and filed with the library. Some middle schoolers have the kind of situations that take place in Ellen Hopkins' and Laurie Halse Anderson's books happening in their own life. Others don't, and it may be too much for the younger kids. Plus the really (I can't think of an appropriate, non-judgemental word here but am going to take a stab at it) conscientious parents can opt out if they don't want their child reading it.

If you know of sites where compromises have been suggested, please link in the comments. Also, let me know your opinion. I'm really curious. Do you think a solution can be reached?


  1. Actually, my parents had to sign a permission slip for me to read Catcher in the Rye in 9th grade. We had a list of books from which to choose for a 6 weeks project, and I wanted to read that one. They took no issue with it, but some parents might have. If they did, there were three other books from which to choose. In terms of libraries, I think your permission slip idea is a very good one. It doesn't prevent kids from getting books from public libraries, where there are sometimes disputes, but I do think that if parents are concerned about what their kids are reading, they should be aware of what they are reading and be ready to openly discuss it. It's easy to treat teens as children and not prepare them to be adults, but think areas such as this one are a great way to introduce teens and pre-teens to an adult discussion about something possibly controversial. I'll admit I tend to be quite liberal, but I respect that some parents don't want their kids reading certain things. I don't respect that they want to dictate to me and my children what they should (not) be reading. :)

  2. It's a good idea, but...You're forgetting teen's desires to do the exact opposite of what their parents tell them to do. ;) I know if my mom had tried to tell me I couldn't read a book, the first thing I would've done was borrow it and keep it hidden under my bed. What happens if parents refuse to sign the permission slip, kids get their hands on that book anyway, and parents blame the school?

    In addition, permission slips would be a lot of work for everyone involved. Also, there's no guarantee that students will even show them to their parents. And would ever book on the curriculum have to be on it? What about books that are required by the STATE to be taught? Maybe a syllabus could be sent home at the beginning of the year with a list of books that are to be read in the course of the year to alert parents to future reading material?

    I respect parents' decision to refuse to allow their kids to read certain books, but that's a decision that should be kept within their family.

  3. Your blog is super fun! I love the background, flowers are fun! I'm a new follower!

    I'm not sure a solution can be reached, I believe there will always be that one person who shares their opinion and others decided to ban together to make a big deal out of something they are completely ignorant about. It's hard to hear things about books being banned, children being punished from reading a VERY good story, because parents don't want to have them learning things about rape, physical abuse, violence. It's happening everywhere. Talking about it will help prevent it.

  4. Thanks, Jen. I'll be sure to look at your blog when I'm not on vacation :)


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