Monday, February 19, 2007

Lucky/Newbery Controversy

So, I have been thinking and reading about this controversy over the word "scrotum" in THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY. It is interestingly sad to think that this is where we have come as a country. I remember a bit with the small controversies surrounding other Newbery winners. But, I don't ever remember librarians as the ones doing the censoring. It is the librarians that we count on to protect our rights to have access to a variety of books. I am not blaming the librarians who refuse to buy the books--I figure it is a sign of the times and they are getting hit and criticized as we all are.

As a teacher, I read books like this, trying to decide if and how I might include them as read alouds, as part of the classroom library, or just titles to have in mind when a child is looking for a good book.

I think teachers and librarians have always had a dilemma when deciding what to keep in the library. I remember a time when a parent of a young child was angry about a book in the library. But the book was very appropriate for 5th graders. When you are the librarian in a K-5 or K-8 school, how do you make these decisions? I am always aware, as a teacher, of the words and issues that come up in books. It is my job. But deciding not to read a book aloud to a whole class seems different from not allowing a book to be part of the library at all.

Where do we draw the line? Have we come to the point that we cannot realize that we can never know how a book will impact an individual reader? Are we going to allow the parents of perfect families dictate what is on our library shelves? That idea terrifies me. I have only read the first 20 pages of the Newbery book as I finally got my hands on a copy yesterday. But, if it is a story about a strong girl who has had hard times, I am appalled that it is such a controversial book that it made the front page of the NYTimes. I can't believe that we can't admit that some of our children/students could see themselves in Lucky. Or understand the world better because of her. I think we have to trust that a committee of well-informed librarians, and lots of great reviews in other journals prove this book to be worthy of a spot on the shelf. To negate the book for a single word--one that is the correct term for a body part--seems ridiculous.

Where are the voices of other parents like me, who want our children to have access to good, quality books. I know many, many parents who want their children to read as widely as possible. Books are the place where many of us learned about people and life. We want the same for our children. I know that my children will read books that do not necessarily align with my beliefs about life, but that is part of the world of reading--to go outside of the world you live in.

I guess this move by some librarians scares me because it becomes a dangerous first step in taking away our access to good books. I worry about what might be next. If the reason was different, I might not be as bothered. But keeping a book out of libraries for a word like "scrotum" seems very self-righteous.

Sorry for babbling. Just my opinion as a parent, teacher and reader.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:16 AM

    I agree with you whole heartedly. I wrote about it here:


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