Should Librarians Ban Books or Stand Up for Freedom?

By Collection Development, General, Reading Program No Comments

Should librarians ban books that are controversial or stand up for freedom of expression?

The primary role of a library is to promote the progress of knowledge, promote love for reading and through this give people a better quality of life. Libraries are centers of all forms of learning. Scientists, artists, and philosophers have discussed, learned and grown in their fields of knowledge only because of libraries. Libraries have always witnessed controversial debate only to bring out the best of knowledge.

Looking back into history there has been many classics and other novels that have been banned at schools and in many countries. More often than not, books with sexual content, profanity, offensive language, stories based on chemical abuse (drugs), satanic themes, religious preferences have been subject to complaints and have pressured librarians not to include such content in the schools. Sometimes, it is the plot or the characters’ viewpoint that impacts morality making it the contention for books to be banned.

Robert A. Heinlein said about censorship: “The whole principle is wrong; it’s like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can’t eat steak.” A library is a venue to provide the users with all forms of information and not control it in any way, even if librarians do not like or agree with some of the content.

You may argue, that the librarians have a moral duty to their students and therefore needs to carefully curate books and help them have a balanced approach to all forms of knowledge. And, on the other hand, we do want our students to think, make informed decisions and choices, have an opportunity to discuss, learn, and find solutions to the problems that may have cropped up in the story.

In Rodney A. Smolla research paper, “Freedom of Speech for Libraries and Librarians” she says, “Like art museums, libraries will be among the repositories of knowledge and culture in a modern society that can expect to find themselves under increasing pressure to serve as society’s censors.” And as librarians, we must have the courage to fight against censorship. Here are some examples of books that were banned at one time or the other.

To kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple was banned for a while because it was said to promote racial discrimination and racial hatred. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain was considered immoral and for having sacrilegious content. Harry Potter series was deemed to be anti-family, violent, and satanic. Another classic, Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck, was banned because of profanity. Looking For Alaska by John Green as taken away from libraries for “offensive language” and “sexually explicit content.”

Recently, a group of parents and teachers talked about banning fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, and other such tales which had wicked plots and made step parents and abandoning of children, unnerving plots and they believed that these stories created a negative impact on little children. So, where do we stop and what do librarians do?

Do we become strong and stand up for freedom of knowledge by supporting challenging options, when adding books to our collection? Do we introduce students to LGBTQ books? Do we create an open society of communication and individual rights or do we shun them under hypocrisy and fear? Do we provide an opportunity for healthy discussion and openmindedness, where students can learn and discuss? Or close their minds under the garb of protecting them. What do we do? Do we begin to have an open discussion with parents and share our rationale with them? Do we trust our children to be intelligent enough to have a rational discussion or think of them to be dumb witted? Do we stand up for a reason or given in to being the nurturing and protective agents? Here is a list of books that were banned in India. And here is a list of LGBTQ Books and here is a list of controversial books you might want to have in your library.

Reading Logs and DEAR

By Book Talk, General, Literacy, Readaloud, Reading and Writing, Reading Program, School Libraries No Comments

What is a Reading Log?

Are they useful? Do you think reading logs can help readers be accountable for what they are reading and how much they are reading?

Adding time and page numbers to the reading log – Will that accurately tell how much students are reading, why they are reading and what they have accomplished from their reading? Do we as adults follow it?

Reading logs are now being replaced by reading responses, that is nudging students to be analytical thinkers by carefully analyzing the structure and word choice of text while reading. An interesting article Goodbye Reading logs from Scholastic shows you how you can help build readers during your library classes with your students.

What is Dear?

DEAR – Drop everything and read is another opportunity provided for students to stop and read. Language class teachers often use this strategy to support learning in class. Librarians can also use DEAR for 10 minutes of their class and have students read with meaning, you may use graphic organizers to compare settings, characters or even the genre of the books or magazine that they are reading.

Other reading responses could be:

  1. Analyze the character in the book with someone you know or compare the character with your sibling?
  2. What is the author’s purpose, and how do you know that?
  3. If it’s a nonfiction book – compare and contrast.
  4. What are the facts and opinions in the passages, and explain them with pieces of evidence?
  5. What are the problems that you infer in the passage/story? What makes you say so?
  6. Identify the character’s point of view? Compare them with your views. (You can use emotions too)
  7. What current events come to your mind, while you are reading this passage?
  8. What connections can you make with history or modern-day technology?
  9. What inferences can you make about the passages you are reading?
  10. Identify some of the sensory words and create a poem with those words?
  11. Write five words or phrases that might summarize what you have read.
  12. Explain your reading with a metaphor or a meme.

Of course, teacher librarians will need to model the responses and demonstrate with an example so that students too can closely read with deeper comprehension.

Guided Reading Program- Raz Plus

By Digital Resources, General, Internation Schools, Literacy, Reading and Writing, Reading Program, Writing Program No Comments

Recently, I read in the local newspaper in Mumbai, that the latest key education trends to watch out for in 2019 are:

  1. The growth of integrated learning solutions: that is integrating technology with teaching content
  2. Adoption of formative assessment solutions: we know that the assessment of rote learning is not going to help our present generation of students
  3. Learning through regional languages: using bilingual mode of teaching and learning
  4. Increased demand for professional development for all educators: having a growth mindset and learning the craft of teaching and learning with new and updated teaching-learning strategies the and pedagogy.

Recently, I learned that many International schools are looking at adopting reading and writing programs and are moving away from the textbook. Some are adopting a dual program – text book + a reading program. This in my perspective, is a great opportunity for teachers to build on their craft of teaching English.

Learning A-Z is a great resource, well known in the International circuit and is used in over 140 countries, thus validating and supporting accreditation in schools. The research and awards received by the program, shows that the content is vetted both qualitatively and quantitatively  leveraging good reading and writing practices, thus moving away from ROTE LEARNING to develop DEEP LITERACY SKILLS  for critical thinking.

In my opinion, Learning A-Z  supports all of the above. It teaches teachers how to teach reading and writing involving skills and  strategies of the 21st century like analyzing character, analyzing plots, analyzing settings, understanding author’s purpose of entertainment, information, and persuasion, cause & effect, identifying points of view, making inferences and drawing conferences, problem solution, understanding different genres, sequence of events and more. All resources books are available in a blended format – both print and digital.

This program offers students direct and explicit instruction on key comprehension skills with the Comprehension Skill Packs. Each lesson plan follows the teaching, practice, and apply an instructional approach to support students as they build meaning from texts.  It includes guided reading books (leveled), worksheets, professional development lesson plans, visual devices, graphic organizers and all the necessary documents for teaching – thus saving lots of google search time.

A blended program that offers the students an opportunity to read at their reading level, complete a quiz on their device. The results of the quiz can help teachers identify areas of teaching and support student learning.

The Writing A-Z  delivers online writing lessons, resources, and tools to meet the needs of every student, at every learning level for Elementary and Middle School Years.

  • Lessons and resources to teach writing
  • Interactive online writing tools for students
  • Online reporting to track progress and growth

You can get your free trial here for 14 days and also download their samples and check them out. I am sure this program will benefit your students and enhance your teaching practice.