Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banned Books Week: one author's story

Most challenges to materials in public libraries are not about restricting access to ideologies, per se. The more frequent rational for challenges has to do with protecting children. A case in point...

Chris Crutcher is a therapist and child protection advocate, a former teacher and popular young adult author. His books have won numerous awards, including:

  • California Library Assn's 2005 St. Katharine Drexel Award
  • Writer Magazine's 2004 Writers Who Make A Difference Award
  • Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award
  • NCTE's 1998 National Intellectual Freedom Award
  • ALAN Award, 1993
  • ALA has named eight of his books as “Best Books for Young Adults,”
  • four of his books appeared on Booklist’s Best 100 Books of the 20th Century, compiled in 2000 – more than any other single author on the list
But it's also true that his books have more than once been on the annual list of most challenged titles. On his website, Crutcher prints lengthy excerpts from his critics and challengers and his responses. It's all interesting reading, but I find two of his statements especially interesting:
I stand for the right of parents to forbid their children to read a particular book. Someone in my old line of work will make a hundred fifty dollars an hour when those children come as twenty and thirty year old adults trying to deal with the power struggles of their childhoods. I don’t like it, but I stand for that right. I don’t, however, stand for the right to decide what other people’s kids read.

I’m also not interested in entering into the free speech/intellectual freedom argument wherein one side says we have to keep our kids safe by censoring what they see and the other says it’s fine for any parent to censor what his/her own kids read, but not fine for them to make those decisions for all parents. We either believe in basic intellectual freedom or we don’t. We either believe in our own abilities as adults to help our kids process tough information or we don’t, and not many minds are going to change regurgitating those arguments.
As a public librarian, I believe in parents and families. As a parent, I did my best to help my kids with the tough issues, and I believe in supporting other parents. It's not my job as a librarian to pre-empt those family decisions.

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