This week started with a huge discussion on Twitter about censorship and how books are pulled from the shelves of libraries or classes.
This opinion piece was published on September 18, 2010. There are several issues with this article but the one that bothers me the most is about the novel Speak. This wonderful book by Laurie Halse Anderson has been a favorite of students at my school since we opened in 2001. In fact, it is one of the first books I recommend to students looking for a good book to read. It is also the focus of one of our Social Sciences class for our grade 9 students.
Laurie Halse Anderson’s blog has several important links for you to check out.
I just don’t get it why people think they have the right to tell me what to read. I remember when I was about 10 I was going through a major biography stage. I had read most of the biographies from the adult section that interested me. I know now that this must have really upset the librarians there.
When I wanted to take out a book on Marilyn Monroe, I was told no. I was not given a reason for this refusal. I had never had someone tell me I wasn’t allowed to check out a book. I hopped on my bike and raced home to tell my Mum. I remember I wanted her to return to the library with me immediately to tell these people what was going on! Since my Mum didn’t drive at that time it was an unrealistic demand of her. Anyway, after dinner, my parents and I drove to the library to find out what was going on.
Apparently the book had Monroe’s nude photographs in it. Imagine the uproar this book would have caused in this early 1970’s Winnipeg neighbourhood library. A child trying to take it out would have been scandalous! So my parents signed the book out, skimmed through it and decided my young mind wouldn’t be totally corrupted, and gave me the book.
I remember looking at the pictures and mostly feeling embarrassed by the nude photos. I read maybe the first chapter or two but since I didn’t find it very interesting I stopped.
Almost forty years later, that event is still clear in my mind. As a teacher-librarian, I do my best to ensure that these controversial books are available for students to read. Whenever I hestitate about purchasing a book because it makes me uncomfortable, I remember my story and buy the book.
As a teacher-librarian how do you overcome your own biases, prejudices, and general uneasiness with some of the topics of the books out there today?