Friday, March 02, 2007

Dealing with Challenges

Freedom to Read Poster 1996

Take the "Banned Book Challenge."

When the censors come:

Download a form to let Freedom to Read know about challenges in your library or school. While you are on the Freedom to Read site, check their list of banned or challenged books.

Diane R. Chen at Deep Thinking deals with a challenge in her school.

Cooperative Children's Book Center, University of Wisconsin confidentially assists Wisconsin librarians and teachers when they are facing potential or actual book challenges. However, they publish a list of Steps to Take when confronted by a challenge. Read the story of how University of Wisconsin is helping educators.

The ALA (American Library Association) has information on Fighting Censorship.

The really brave can find a lesson plan using banned or challenged materials in the classroom. Curriculum Services Canada offers a novel approach to teaching art. Art History Goes Graphic offers a unique approach to the study of art history through the use of graphic novels.

Book Moot has advice on avoiding book challenges. Excerpts of the post are below.
Too often in the past year I have read reports of districts ignoring their own reconsideration policies to quiet one hysterical voice. I have also seen heartening stories where district policies are followed to the letter.

Librarians CAN innoculate themselves to a small degree to book challenges.
1. Do your students look forward to their time in the library?
2. Do you interact with your students?
3. Do you get to know their interests and reading strengths?
4. Would they recognize you in the hall?
5. Do parents hear about your "very cool" library program?

Or are you an "in-the-office" librarian, toiling away on MARC records, focusing on the administrative aspects of the job with little personal contact with the kids?

RULE #1 of book challenges--It is NEVER just about the book. Book challenges always include one or more of the following ingredients:
1. anger with someone at the school
2. parental guilt about not being there for their child in some way or fashion
3. a bid for attention and/or a desire to be someone of consequence and power

Finally, remember, it is all about "the Right Book for the Right Reader at the Right Time."

Doug Johnson of The Blue Skunk Blog advises, "Don't defend any book." Excerpts from his post follow.
I find it upsetting that so many professional librarians seem to have lost the basic understandings of selection, reconsideration, in loco parentis, and intellectual freedom.

The main objection I have to the conversations [about banning Lucky] has been that we are trying to defend a single book rather than defending a fair and open process for selecting and retaining any instructional material in our schools.

As I remember from li-berry school, this is how professionals deal with the selection of and potential censorship of instructional materials:

1. They assure that the district has a board adopted selection/reconsideration policy. Oh, and they've read it.
2. They select all materials based on the stated selection criteria in the policy.
3. They select only materials based on authoritative and reliable review sources.
4. If they are asked to remove an item selected from the instructional program, they do not defend the material, but insist that the board adopted reconsideration policy and procedures be followed. This policy should require that a standing reconsideration committee be appointed at the beginning of each school year. When requested by the committee, they will provide the rationale and resources used for selection of the item under reconsideration.
5. Once a resource is selected, they do not restrict its use by any student. Professionals cannot act in the place of parents (in loco parentis) to restrict access to materials to individuals.

His final advice is to know your selection policy, select from authoritative reviews, and insist on due process if a book is challenged.

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