Sunday, February 17, 2008

Unsuited to Age Group

parent: a father or a mother; one who sires or gives birth to and/or nurtures and raises an offspring -Wikipedia

Each year the American Library Association compiles a list of the most frequently challenged books. A challenge is defined as a "formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness." And Tango Makes Three tops ALA's 2006 list for "homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group." The award-winning picture book, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, is based on the true story of two male penguins parenting an egg in the Central Park Zoo, New York City.

Loudoun County, VA recently joined the list of school districts that have pulled this book off library shelves, although copies are still available in the professional collection at 16 elementary buildings. In other states, the book has been moved from the Easy section to non-fiction or may only be checked out with parental permission.

A few of our teachers are doing research units on penguins. I've shown them "And Tango Makes Three" and explained why it is considered controversial in some districts. The book is shelved in our Easy Fiction section and will remain there unless and until it is formally challenged. No titles have been removed during my years as SLMS and I don't anticipate any great outcry over Tango.

We have many variations on the concept of family in our school, and I don't think the children will be shocked by the story of two loving penguins sharing parenthood. Envious, maybe, but not shocked.

"It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons." -Johann Schiller

"IMG_2610" by cyfer13


Unknown said...

"We have many variations on the concept of family in our school, and I don't think the children will be shocked by the story of two loving penguins sharing parenthood."

Each September, during Banned Books Week, my sophomores and I have a nice long chat about which books are banned, who bans them, why, and if/when it's ever OK to do so.

More often than not, even when the books cover subjects that many of my students aren't comfortable with (usually homosexuality above all else), the kids can usually see the pitfalls of this type of censorship.

Unfortunately for libraries & schools around the country, it's usually not the kids who need convincing.

diane said...


Most of the time, I'm lucky enough to fly under the radar when it comes to our elementary collection.

We "censor" as needed: if a 3rd grader can't handle the photos in the Guiness book, we tell them to select something else.

Our "small town" parents are, on the whole, pretty open when it comes to books. They trust us to guide their children, and we take that responsibility seriously.

If I believe a book is unsuitable for our collection, I just don't order it. There are thousands of titles to choose from, though it does get a bit sticky when the Caldecott or Newbery Medal is awarded to a controversial book.

There must be an atmosphere of trust for the library - and the classroom - to function properly.


TJ Shay said...

I followed your Lolita post to find my way here and I am glad that I did. Have I ever mentioned that my best friend at school is the librarian?

I think often about this censorship thing. My wife teaches a class called "Children's Literature- Birth To Adolescence" so I have had the opportunity to enjoy many wonderful books.

Imagine my surprise to see "The Higher Power of Lucky" as a challenged book! It is a beautiful story about a young girl who has had many challenges, but remains happy. When I inquired as to why the book has been challenged, it is because it has the word "scrotum."

A book that some parents feel needs to be removed from a library for including an anatomical word.
What an amazingly sad thing to happen to a beautiful book with a great message.

Keep fighting the good fight, you goddess of the stacks! Kids need librarians who value good literature above lunacy!