Question 2 – How would you respond to a parent who wants the district to limit access to or remove books from the library or classroom?
In some ways, it is appropriate that this is the next question. I wrote a few days ago about the firing of a Verona librarian apparently in response to her selection of books to display in the library. At least one other candidate on the stage said they have heard about the attempt to have books banned, but never actually had a parent come to them to have a book banned. However, in New Jersey in the past year alone, there have been at least four organized, publicized attempts to ban or remove books from the school curriculum or libraries. And those are just the ones that made the news. According to the American Library Association, 82-97% of book challenges remain unreported and receive no media attention.
Books provide an avenue for exploration and self-reflection. They can spark an interest in a child to travel to new places, learn about new cultures, or reflect on changes happening in their life. This type of curiosity and interest in learning should be nurtured and encouraged by access to books that feed into it. Our school (and town) librarians and teachers do an excellent job at selecting appropriate books, on a variety of topics for our students. If they are provided the support necessary to effectively do their job, they will continue to inspire the students in Verona.
If a parent feels a book in a school library is inappropriate for their child, I would encourage them to speak with the school librarian and their child to ensure that the child does not check it out. If a book is part of a class, I would encourage the parent to first read the entire book. Often it may have been several years since they read the book, or they only read part of the book. Reading the entire book will give individual passages or chapters context which is valuable when analyzing a book. Then if the passages or chapters still bother them, they should discuss them with their child.
As I stated in the Forum, I love to read. I have loved reading probably since I first realized the words in the books meant something. I will support every child having access to books that awaken and develop that same love of reading, even if some people believe a few are inappropriate. That is a choice a parent can make for their own child, but not the community at large.