Sunday, September 27, 2009

Controversy in the collection

This week I had a parent of a year 7 boy bring in "King Dork" by Frank Portman and object to it being in the school library - particularly the descriptive sex scene on pages 119 - 121.

The fiction collection at our K-9 school is divided into 3 sections - Junior fiction for the emerging readers where we have the early chapter books. There is then the Fiction section, which is a general section which I keep 'G' rated. Then we have the senior fiction, which includes the controversial titles like Melvin Burgess' "Junk' and Portman's 'King Dork' plus other titles which are on the edge. Only the secondary students can borrow from the senior fiction collection - this includes year 7, or 11 year olds.

At the beginning of the year I talk to the year 7 students about the senior fiction and how they will come across swear words, and possible topics that will make them uncomfortable, or may not be the type of reading matter their parents want them to read at this time. They are to make to read the blurb and if they do decide to read the book, they have permission to not finish it if it makes them uncomfortable.

The parent was concerned that these types of books are in the school library, and she wanted year 7 & 8's to be banned from reading the senior fiction collection. I explained that I was not going to ban the year 7's and 8's from this collection, but she could request that her son does not borrow from that section. I explained that if he was in a pure secondary school, the books would probably not be separated into General and Mature ratings, and would probably find it harder to sift out books that are controversial from those that are not.

This has got me thinking about bringing in another level of the collection - to mark those in the senior fiction with an 'M' to indicate really mature content - which would include 'King Dork', Burgess' "Junk" & "Doing it", anything by Glynn Parry, most of Sonia Hartnett's work, anything where there is "intense sex, swearing, violence, drugs or rock and roll". This would then at least give the students more of a warning about the content, and probably make them wider read!

What do others do with their riskier fiction titles?

Just as an addition to this - I had a teacher bring me a National Geographic which has topless Lisu women bathing in China and stated that it was not appropriate for the collection. I also have students hiding the "Sex 101" and similar titles because 'they are inappropriate to be in a school library'.

I do have a collection development policy, and a challenged materials policy, so I think I am ready for the big challenge when it comes, and it will.

Here is a link to a superbly written letter by Jamie LaRue to a parent about the objection they had about single sex marriages in Uncle Bobby's wedding
Thanks to Ben Farr in Singapore for alerting me to this via OZTL_NET.


The Urban Post said...

I don't quite understand the issue here. Or if there really is an issue. It book. A truly epic book at that. You get one over protective parent who apparently has her head stuck up here ass and you start to want to censor to a further extent what kids can read? Seriously? Truthfully this kid is behind the curve has it is. By the age of 9 I was practicing cunnilingus on a regular basis. Leave to books alone. Books like "King Dork" are the only reason we don't have a world full of kids walking around with parenteral infected downs syndrome.


Trey said...

So a kid is "behind the curve" if he isn't "actively practicing cunnilingus" by the age of 9??? I hope I missed an attempt at sarcasm there.

Dianne said...

I do not want censor anything - I just want to let them know they will probably find stuff in the books their parents won't want them to read. I won't stop them from reading it.

Mack Panic said...

This controversy is probably the best thing that could possibly happen to Frank Portman and King Dork. It's a wonderfully written book that I, as an adult, found engrossing and funny enough to read many times. Tell kids "you can't" and guess what - they will! The appropriate age level depends on the knowledge level of the kid and whether they would even understand the sex, drugs, and frustrations of these characters. I'm not sure the average 7 year old would appreciate it fully. I also don't know why this is considered Young Adult, a euphemism for Teen. Adults who've read King Dork love it and marketing it as Teen limits its reach. Frank just signed a deal for the movie, so let's hope to see it unfold on the screen soon. And, let's tell the kids they can't see it so they'll run to the theater opening weekend!