Monday, September 27, 2004

Banned Books Week

September 26-October 2, 2004 is Banned Books Week, sponsored by the American Library Association and the American Booksellers Association. It is a week to ponder the freedom to read and celebrate printed ideas that are unconventional, even unorthodox. In countries like Cuba, citizens are denied free access to books and information. For more information on that subject visit The Friends of Cuban Libraries website.

The issue of what is appropriate for children to read has been a point of debate since ...well...the publication of Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan (1678).

Parents can and should "steward" their family's reading choices (although if a child really has the "reading bug" it might be safer to just stand back.) If a library book is not a good fit for their family, just take it back.

Kelly Milner Halls of The Denver Post has a thoughtful article addressing the issues of reading and censorship.

Author Chris Crutcher has been writing books for high school readers for many years. His book Whale Talk was the subject of a challenge in Fowlerville, Mich.
Said Crutcher, a family therapist in Washington, "you do not, as an adult, have to like the story or agree with its messages to have a valuable conversation with your children. I think we put ourselves in a tough position as adults when we refuse to hear our kids' stories in their native tongue."
...and remember, public libraries serve the p-u-b-l-i-c.
The gap between opposing camps may seem expansive, but Douglas Public Library District director Jamie LaRue, who has lost only one of the 200 challenges he's fielded, believes bridging ideologies is often a matter of thoughtful communication, not battle lines.

"These people are not our enemies," LaRue says. "They are using the library. They are encouraging their children to use the library. They are paying attention to what their kids read. They are even going out of their way to talk to a public institution."

He adopts a candid approach when a parent questions his collection. "I often ask the parents if their children will grow up to live in a real and sometimes dangerous world," he says. "Then I ask, 'Where do you want your child to encounter this subject for the first time - at home while he can still talk to you, or out on the street?"'

By addressing the core concern, which he insists is protecting the people they love, LaRue attains the impossible - compromise.

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