I originally thought I would be creating a list of “what I know now” but with the announcement of a library challenge in our district I am inspired to write about it instead.
The book is Don’t Take Love Lying Down by Brad Henning, Winepress Publishing, ISBN 1-57921-494-0 challenged by a middle school parent. The basis of the challenge is:
- “The content of the book is not age appropriate.”
- “The context of the entire book is way too advanced.”
- “Kids will learn things that are too mature for them with no one to help them filter the information.”
The rumblings of the book challenge have been murmuring for weeks. I asked to check it out from the high school to read. It is a book about abstinence. Apparently, the author has talked at both middle and high school students in our district.
Our district is not new to challenges. I had a book challenge my first year as a teacher librarian in the 80’s. The Stupids Step Out by Harry Allard in 1985 was challenged as the family was not the way “God created families” according the parent. (As the title indicates, they are an incredibly silly family who does stupid things.)
I then had books on babies challenge along with other titles throughout the district. Our district was a hotbed for book challenges.
But having read the current book in question, I am grateful to not be the teacher librarian of the school where the challenge began.
How does anyone who values academic freedom and the right to read defend a book that should probably be weeded from the collection? I am having difficulty with the idea that teacher librarians must defend a book with every challenge that comes along.
The book was published in 2003 which at nine years since publishing seems a bit old. The research is older as indicated by the citations, most being in the middle 90’s. Henning uses magazines such as Cosmopolitan, YM, and People as documentation in the book.
One concept I have difficulty with is that boys just want to have sex and girls will be ruined for marriage if they have sex. He also refers to girls as “sluts” and boys as “studs”. This is just disrespectful.
As I read the book, I couldn’t imagine middle school students sticking with it as it’s text heavy with few pictures and graphics. One of the illustrations is that of an aborted fetus which I question its appropriateness for the book.
I get that there is probably way too much information for the sixth graders. I also get that when you have pregnant ninth graders to start the school year, perhaps having viable resources in the library for check out is needed.
It’s a real narrow path to walk on in middle school. With sixth graders, some who are just 11 to eight graders who are 14, the maturity levels span quite a bit.
And that’s just the point. I think there has to be more books that are aligned with the health standards, that discusses the importance of abstinence in a way that is more balanced.
I think as a teacher-librarian it’s okay to say that the book doesn’t belong in the collection. That may raise the hair on some librarian’s back. But it’s my opinion that when we select books they must be accurate, current, balanced, and high quality. We weed books based on whether they are still current, accurate, balanced and the target is aimed at the appropriate age level.
It’s going to be interesting to see out it all turns out and what the committee decides.
More slice of life can be found HERE.