Thursday, September 29, 2016

Book Banning Attempt in Hood County in 2015

In the spring and summer of 2015, the Hood County Library (in nearby Granbury) was the focus of a challenge to two books.  Given that this (September 25 through October 1, 2016) is Banned Books Week, it's a relevant topic.

The two books, about acceptance and tolerance, were My Princess Boy and This Day in June.

My  Princess Boy, written by Cheryl Kilodavis, is subtitled "a mom's story about a young boy who loves to dress up" -- in this case, her four-year-old son.  The narrative is a bit pedantic, but there's an important message about compassion and tolerance. Suzanne DeSimone's illustrations are notable for the lack of features on the faces.  That might be so the reader or listener can imagine anyone's and everyone's faces on the characters - further promoting acceptance of others and one's own uniqueness.

This Day in June, written by Gayle E. Pitman, Ph.D., a professor of psychology, won the 2015 Stonewall Book Award - Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award, given annually to "English-language works of exceptional merit for children or teens relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience.'  This was the first time in the award's 44-year-history that a picture book won (or was even named an honor book).

The book portrays the sights, sounds, and emotions of a colorful gay pride parade with short rhyming text and intricate illustrations by Kristyna Litten.  Young children who look at this book will see a fun parade; older children and parents will see some of the subtler messages in the shirts and signs of parade participants and watchers (the latter generally rendered in simple outlines and pastels).

Pitman also included an interesting four-page reading guide that provides more background for the images in each of the double-page-spread illustrations, as well as a four-page "note to parents and caregivers" with ideas on using the book and talking to children of various ages about the issues it might bring up.

More than 50 people submitted challenges to the books to the Hood County Library in late May and early June, 2015.  The county's Library Advisory Board (whose members are appointed by the elected county judge and commissioners) held a public hearing to consider the book removal requests on June 8.

The board voted unanimously to recommend keeping the books. The library director, in an attempt to compromise with the complainants, moved This Day in June to the library’s adult collection, because of its reading guide.

Nevertheless, the complainants continued to voice their disapproval, so the Commissioners Court held a public hearing on July 15, 2015.  The meeting lasted nearly three hours and drew both supporters and opponents of the books, who were all allowed to speak for up to five minutes each.  About three fourths of those who spoke supported keeping the books.

Commissioners decided not to vote on the issue after the county attorney spoke.   She noted the courts would likely consider any attempts to remove, relocate, or restrict access to the books to be unlawful censorship, based on previous case law involving another Texas public library.

The decision not to vote meant the books will stay where they are.  Not surprisingly, this issue led to a review of all the library's policies (including collection development), but ultimately no major changes were made to those.

This is an example of a book challenge that did NOT result in a ban.  "Banned Books Week" is somewhat of a misnomer - but "Challenged Books Week" does not have quite the same ring to it.  Luckily, most books that are challenged in libraries and schools are not banned.

Libraries - especially public and academic libraries - should support the freedom to read.  Individuals (including parents for their young children) still have the right to choose what they read - just not to restrict the rights of others through censorship.

[My Princess Boy and This Day in June are available on the lower level of the Dick Smith Library in the Curriculum Collection, call numbers EDUC HQ1075 .K535 2010 and EDUC PZ8.3 .P5586836 TH 2014 respectively.]

1 comment:

Lisa Wan said...

Interesting information about a banning attempt right here in our area. Thanks for sharing.