The Good, the Bad, and the Inappropriate: Banning Books from Your Child’s School Library

I first started thinking about this issue when Tristi Pinkston wrote a review of the Junie B. Jones books. One commenter felt like Junie’s grammar was atrocious and so she wasn’t thrilled her daughter was reading them, but I feel like they will eventually be part of the ‘modern classics’ along with Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume.

Then I read an article about a mother who is apparently engaged in a fight with the Georgia Board of Education to remove the popular Harry Potter books claiming that they encourage witch craft among young children. Here comes my dilemma. While I will allow my children to read Junie B., we do not allow our kids anywhere near Harry Potter because of this very issue: we feel our children are too young to be exposed to the witchcraft in the books. Interestingly, on ALA’s most challenged books there were several that I would not let my children read, right along side several that I consider ‘classics’ and wouldn’t consider my child’s education complete without having read them.

So the question is: Are there certain books that should be banned from your child’s school library? To me, it seems that several issues come into play: parental responsibility, tax payers funds, and of course the purpose of a school library.

Who pays for your child’s school library?

Who pays for your local public school library? You do! Libraries are one thing that your tax dollars go to fund. It seems to me if tax payers pay for public school libraries, then tax payers have the right to object if their school library has questionable material. However, it has to be a majority, that agrees the material is objectionable. Currently, if a parent has a complaint it is brought to the school board who then makes a decision regarding the book. I imagine that a decision is based on the reasoning behind banning the book, as well as how it is perceived that the majority of parents would feel regarding the book.

Who is responsible for the media your child is exposed to?

There are all sorts of things in both our local public library and on television (and on the internet for that matter) that I will not allow my children to see. I simply turn the television off, don’t allow the book to be checked out, etc. I know that I cannot always protect my children from influences that I deem unacceptable. However, I am not horribly concerned that my children will “sneak” unacceptable library books home. I suspect that it would take a lot of promoting of something in order for me to see it in my child’s back pack.

Who decides what library books are acceptable?

Here is the most important question of all–is it not? Who is making the decision reagarding the library’s collection and what criteria are they basing that decision on? I hope that librarians are making the decisions and in part that parents are helping determine what is and is not appropriate. I will note that I searched and searched, under everything I could possibly think of, and no where did I find a list of set criteria that could explain to me how children’s books end up into a library. There are a few lists of ‘guidelines’ from the American Library Association–but no firm list of what makes a good children’s book.

Censorship or good taste?

So should any children’s book be available in your child’s public school library? No–in my opinion–the public school library is not the place for any book–especially if the library is exclusively for elementary students. We may not agree on what is and is not appropriate. I am fine with books being in the library that I wouldn’t let my children read. Just because I don’t approve of them for my family, doesn’t mean that other families automatically should not have access to them.

However, I think common sense and good judgment, majority vote and a list of criteria for what defines a “good book” should prevail over a blanket argument the school libraries should not participate in censorship. What do you think?

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