Threatening to throw a teacher or a librarian in jail would lead to an outcome that would be worse for everyone.
The teenage and children’s sections of the Oxford Public Library are featured on October 21. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
You have probably already heard that there is pornography in our school libraries. Don’t worry, there isn’t.
Books that receive negative attention are about topics that some people disapprove of. These books are in the fiction and non-fiction categories at all grade levels. Some of them relate to the Black Lives Matter movement, abortion and religion. Some of them feature gay, transgender, gender-questioning, straight, nice, and mean characters. They are not pornographic and have been chosen for the library’s collection by teachers and librarians who wish to provide high quality, relevant and appropriate educational literary material for their students. The most important thing about them is that they are all books and reading books does no harm to children.
Of course, we have the right to disapprove of whatever we want, and sometimes we can do something about it. If parents disapprove of the books their children bring home, they can make an appointment with their child’s teacher or librarian to explain why this book is included in the child’s curriculum or why it is available at the library. If they are not satisfied, they can take their conversation further by challenging the book in front of the school board. Arrangements can be made for their student to receive an alternate assignment. Threatening to throw a teacher or librarian in jail or attempting to ban a book from the library’s collection would lead to an outcome that would be worse for everyone.
Children’s author Beverly Cleary, who penned the beloved Ramona series, became a writer because as a child she was frustrated that the books in her school library “weren’t about kids like her.” She wanted to see herself in books, like all children. Whether we like it or not, our children are what they are. We can guide them, help them and love them, but their selves are formed long before they learn to read. Reading about topics or characters that interest them can give them a deeper sense of who they are and make them more knowledgeable and empathetic. If we’re really lucky, our kids can tell us about a book they’re reading and give us an idea of who they really are or what worries them. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?
Our state of Iowa, like every state in our country, is filled with all kinds of people who have different religions, educations, cultures, sexual orientations, values, family situations, and economic statuses. They live, work, pay taxes, go to school, spend money and vote. Schools and libraries are charged with serving them all, and our political leaders should see themselves as representing them all, not just those who voted for them. People who disapprove of library books may believe that their children are hurt by being exposed to these ideas. Others believe that their children will be hurt by the absence of such a book. This is the world we live in. The library is a place that gives everyone equal access to a safe haven where they can be themselves and read what they want. It should be allowed to continue to be this place.
Amy White has been director of the Lisbon Public Library for 32 years.