Thursday, May 8, 2008

Liberating The Reading Habbits of Children

This discussion was lead by Maggie Bush and Roger Sutton.

Maggie Bush is a reviewer for the Horn Book and for School Library Journal, and a teacher at Simmons College.

Roger Sutton is the editor of Horn Book Magazine.

Rodger Sutton started off by talking about aspects of the ALA’s policy that address some of this issue.

For example, Article 5 was changed in 1967 by ALA to include age in the clause that the states that a person has a right to use a library. ALA also talks about having a collection policy to be prepared for challenges.

ALA also states that parents are the only ones who can restrict their children, but only their own children, from material and services. Librarians are responsible for providing a choice of material for the public.

Is it against the libraries mission to promote the idea that parents should limit their children’s reading? Do libraries have an obligation to allow children to have the same reading freedom as adults? Roger Sutton uses the problem if a child wants to read Harry Potter, but his parents think that it’s evil, what does a library do?

Maggie Bush says we are more an advocate for children, not a gatekeeper. Children need to be respected by their librarian. The librarian has to affirm the child’s interest, and also talk to the parent.

Some ideas for dealing with this situation include things like entering into a conversation with the parent can be useful. Ask questions, especially things like “Have you read this book?”

Parents should be encouraged to read books with children, and often get a new perspective on the work from the child. Sometimes compromise works between children and parents.

Children and teens need to be able to have privacy in their reading, says Roger. They need to be safe, and to be able to have access to books that even the librarian doesn’t know they’re reading.

If books can do good, can they also do harm? We don’t know exactly. Obviously some stories can frighten children, introduce topics that they may have trouble processing.

Maggie brought up the point that an emphasis of talking with children about what they are reading, and may be able to discuss that fear or understanding of what they are reading. This can develop the ability to deal with the subject. But it’s important, notes Roger, to let the child lead the discussion. If a parent is perceived as “Butting” in or intruding on their world and can actually make it worse between them.

The point was brought up that if a kid becomes uncomfortable with a book they will stop reading it.

Roger also made the point that YA is aimed for older teens now, some YA is aimed now for 15-18.

Maggie noted that YA lit has changed and expanded what the area covers, subject and age wise.

They also talked about how what one person finds inappropriate, another will think its fine for their kids.

It was a good talk, and some good points were raised, but not much was addressed about what to actually do about challenges, or how to balance a parents rights with a child. A lot of questions to think about, but unfortunately not too many answers.

Information on Maggie Bush can be found at

Roger Sutton’s blog is at

-Sarah "The Dyslexic Librarian" Hodge-Wetherbe, Springfield Public Library

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