Don’t Read This Book!! Censorship & YA Literature Vicki Billimack & Joel Machiela
Intellectual Freedom Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored. (ALA)
Library Bill of Rights I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation. II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval. III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
Library Bill of Rights IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas. V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views. VI. Libraries that make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use. (ALA)
Censorship and Selection WHERE DO WE DRAW THE LINE? Censorship thought control finds reasons to reject the book. Selection liberty of thought finds reasons to keep the book. (Asheim, 1953)
Censorship and Selection WHERE DO WE DRAW THE LINE? "The positive selector asks what the reaction of a rational intelligent adult would be to the content of the work; the censor fears for the results on the weak, the warped, and the irrational." - Lester Asheim (1953).
Self-censorship REASONS WE CENSOR OUR OWN COLLECTIONS Fear of anticipated challenges Fear of objection by teachers, principals, parents, school board Potential loss of employment Lack of confidence in ability to discuss complicated issues with students Authors struggle with self-censorship as well Fear of not being published or of not being put on the shelves Especially if previous works have faced challenges (Whelan, 2009)
Self-censorship REASONS TO SELECT "Children will put down what they can't handle or what they aren't ready for." - Pat Scales, president of the Association of Library Services to Children
Self-censorship REASONS TO SELECT "That's why YA authors write radical reads, and that's why teens read them . [Teens] need to know that the monsters can be killed and that they can survive even the worst of them, if they choose to do so. They also need to know that they aren't alone -- there's at least one person out there [who] . . . understands them and what they are living with." - Ellen Hopkins, author of Burned, Crank, Glass, Impulse, and Tricks.
Self-censorship WHAT KIDS GET OUT OF READING “RACY” BOOKS Vicarious experience, trying out different lives Seeing the choices, the consequences Exposure to inappropriate behavior, modeling appropriate behavior (social, racial, drugs, etc.) "We have a special responsibility writing for kids, and we take it seriously." - Brent Hartinger, author of Geography Club "If I don't write honestly about [the issue] then I'm just another person saying 'don' t do it.' ... I hopefully write the truth. My readers will call me on it if I don't." - Ellen Hopkins
What is a Book Challenge? “An attempt to remove or restrict materials based on an objection of a person or a group" (ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom). Between 2001 and 2008, 3,736 challenges were initiated, 68% of which originated in the nation's school system (Hill, 2010, p. 31).
Why Are Books Challenged? Books are usually challenged with the best intentions — to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information. (ALA)
Top 14 Reasons Why YA Books are Challenged 1. Profanity 2. Heterosexual activity 3. Homosexuality 4. Sexual activity deemed immoral/illegal 5. Religion/Witchcraft 6. Violence/Horror 7. Rebellion 8. Racism/Sexism 9. Substance use/ abuse 10. Suicide/death 11. Crime 12. Crude behavior 13. Depressing/ Negative 14. Other (Curry, 2001)
Before a Challenge CHALLENGED BOOK PROCEDURES Create a materials selection policy Example: Geneva Public Library Create form and procedure for formal removal and reconsideration of materials
(Greenwood District, 2004)
Educate Objecting Parents CHALLENGED BOOK PROCEDURES Ask if parent has read the book/ if not, invite them to do so Clarify the source of the objection Discuss book as a whole with parent--often profanity, objectionable material can be taken out of context Invite parent to a student/librarian book discussion Discuss how author's voice, slang, dialect, characterization, etc. affect theme. Student comments might change parent's perception of book.
Offer Alternative Titles CHALLENGED BOOK PROCEDURES Safer books on same topic Share alternative titles with teachers who have assigned the reading
Relocation of Controversial Materials CHALLENGED BOOK PROCEDURES Move to adult section Move to restricted area/ closed stack section Can be seen as form of censorship Some patrons will not be able to access without asking
Banned Book Week Founded in 1982 by Judith Krug, director of ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom Last week in September Libraries, schools, booksellers celebrate individuals' First Amendment right to read by recognizing challenged and banned books (Kinney, 2009, p. 9) Discussion: What does your library or school library do for banned book week?
Resources ALA. (1996, January 23). Library Bill of Rights. Retrieved July 16, 2010, from http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/intfreedom/library bill/index.cfm ALA. (2010). Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q & A. Retrieved July 16, 2010, from http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/basics/ifcensor shipqanda.cfm Asheim, L. (1953, September). Not censorship but selection. Wilson Library Bulletin, 28, 63-67. Curry, A. (2001). Where is Judy Blume?: Controversial fiction for children and young adults. Journal of Youth Services in Libraries, 13(3), 28-37. Freedman, L., & Johnson, H. (2000). Who's protecting whom? I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This, a case in point in confronting self-censorship in the choice of young adult literature. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 44(4), 356.
Resources Geneva Public Library District. (2006). Materials selection policy. Retrieved July 16, 2010, from http://www.geneva.lib.il.us/materialselection Greenwood District Media Specialists. (2004, May 13). Book selection policy of Greenwood School District. Retrieved July 16, 2010, from http://ghsweb.k12.ar.us/media/selection.htm Hill, R. (2010). Gritty, tough, edgy, and controversial: YA authors who tackle forbidden subjects and why they do it. Voice Youth Advocates, 33(1), 30-32. Kinney, B. (2009). A duty to offend?. Alki, 25(2), 9, 11. Whelan, D. (2009). A dirty little secret. School Library Journal, 55(2), 26-30.