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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Total Depravity

***Warning! Clear allusion to adult language follows***

I was trying to figure out what to write about next: The Call of Duty in men, some praise for my favorite radio talk show hosts, a discourse on the differences between Mormon and orthodox Christian beliefs, or a celebration of the Iraqi election. Instead, Mrs. Hammer walked into the office with the subject for today:

A friend of ours has children in public school in Bardstown, KY. A 3rd grade child in that school has checked out a book called, "America".

This book is recommended for school libraries by the American Library Association, which names the book as a "Best Book for Young Adults" and has it on its "Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers" list. The book is also a "New York Times Notable Book" and a School Library Journal "Best Book".

The book has been rated by the Accelerated Reader program on the list of books that should be used for reading comprehension tests. The number of points a student can score for reading this book is 70 points.The readability level is 3.6 - which indicates it is rated at a third-grade reading level.

All of these seem to indicate that there should not be an issue with this book being checked out from the Bardstown Elementary School library by a third-grader...until you consider that the book is also rated as "UG" for Upper Grade (high school) interest level. The following details explain some of why we should be very angry that school librarians have placed this book in the hands of a third grader:

"I have to keep count of s***." pg 192

"She presses up against me, and she has ti** now, and they're soft. She lets me put my hands on them, and it feels good." pg 192

"I hate you, motherf*****, I hate you." pg 198

"she lets me get in her pants, and she's got a d***, and at first it's cool, it's normal, and it's hot" pg 193

"when I get my hands in her pants, there's no d***, either." pg 220

"The way this little guy says f*** off" pg 230

"sometimes we end up not being s*** at the fountain at five o'clock in the f****** A.M." pg 193.

Consider this: This book was ordered by an elementary school librarian for an elementary school library, had the reading level and interest level sticker placed in it and/or noted by an elementary school librarian, and checked out to a third grader by an elementary school librarian.

Writing books like this is part of the downside of freedom, and thus I support the right of the author to write it, the company to print it, and distributors to sell it. However, there is no excuse for it to be in an elementary school library.

I'm going to write a couple of bloggers and talk-show hosts about this. I recommend that you check your own school library for this book. Make this reason #42 that I work my tail off so that my kids do not go to public schools.


  • Here is what it says about the book in one of the links you supplied:

    FRANK, E. R. America. S & S/Atheneum/A Richard Jackson Bk. RTE $18. ISBN 0-689-84729-7.
    Gr 8 Up –Years of neglect and betrayal in and out of foster care have brought a teen to the brink of his own destruction. His raw, heartbreaking narrative reveals his long road to self-acceptance through his trusting relationship with a steadfast therapist. (Mar.)

    Grades 8 and up. About a troubled Teen in theropy. Self destruction. "Raw." The quotes you supply clearly show this book doesn't belong in a grade school, but even without the quotes the description itself suggests it's not appropriate for a third grader to read. The quotes themselves don't tell me this is a bad book in general (I certainly read my sister's Judy Bloom books as a kid), but I agree completely it doesn't belong in the hands of a third grader.

    Raising a daughter whose been reading chapter books since she was four we run into these issues all the time. In the past it was difficult to find books at both the correct reading level and interest level. Fortunately, she is mostly into fantasy and that is the one style that is often written for older readers without entering "adult content" territory.

    But the bottom line is the school is not a substitute for the parent. Schools are just an imperfect tool parents use to help raise and educate their children.

    Of course, language and media is a strange topic on it's own. For example, my wife and I listen to music with the occasional bad word all the time. Even our family vacation compilation CDs always end up with an F word or two in them. But my wife and I never use that kind of language and my daughter, to my knowledge, has never used a bad word in her life. (Ok, once, but at the time she didn't know it was a bad word.) I imagine someone who listened to good Christian music but occasionally cussed like a sailor would have the opposite results.

    By Blogger Mark, at 12/19/2005 02:22:00 PM  

  • Hammer,

    This one is hard for me. I amazoned the book and found that it rated it at 12 to 13 years and up (depending on which review you read). So I do agree that it shouldn't be in an elementary school library. Would I want my daughter to read it even in High school? Heck no. But this book being reason #42 why your kid goes to a christian school rubs me a little wrong. I think I agree with Mark on the fact that while this book shouldn't be in the library at school it doesn't make the christian school library any better. How many books are the kids there missing out on because they may be a bit off. I'm not sure I have a full opinion on the matter but it is food for thought.

    Also I preread many if not all of Syd's books for two reason....
    To make sure it's appropiate
    and To have something we can talk about in depth to help her form views, opinions, and strong morals.

    If she brought home this book you bet I'd preread it and it would go back to the library unread by her and I'd have a chat with the libarian as well as the principal. It's my duty as a parent to be on top of things. If I don't in 4th grade I haven't a chance by high school.

    By Blogger anna, at 12/20/2005 03:24:00 PM  

  • Mark,
    Great points on the need for parents to, well, parent! I would think that includes being aware of what your kids are being exposed to in school. However, you have not had that challenge because you were more proactive than even that - kudos!

    Anna, I fear you presented a red herring. What school books are missing from my son's library in his Christian school that he is missing out on? Tom Sawyer? No, it's there. Wait - I just thought of one. Perhaps Harry Potter is not there. On the other hand, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein are there, so what is he, exactly, missing out on.

    It comes back to parental control, I think. Since my child is not under my active supervision in the school library, and clearly some libraries and librarians will acquire and check out the above-described filth to third-graders, I would prefer the school library err to the side of safety and innocence. Let me, the parent, decide when my kids need to read the books. After all, I'm not suggesting we regulate public libraries in this fashion - just school libraries.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 12/27/2005 10:14:00 AM  

  • Hammer, I know this is an old post but I haven't had a chance to come back and see your response.

    While it might have been a red herring I can remember back being in school talking about books we were reading in class that my "christian school" friends were not allowed to read and after looking over their library didn't even have available. Books like
    A Wrinkle in Time,Chronicles of Narnia and Tolkien to name a few. If your kid's school has them then much kuddos to them. The school in my neighborhood abhorred such books because they were fantasy. Not to mention Nancy Drew (a women be a decective-how unaccectable). Mind you I know times have changed and it's based on school to school but so it is in public school.

    I do think it is our job and I do agree that I'd rather not have such books in my kid's library so yes a cleaner version is always better but for a kid that reads 300+ pages a week I'd like to have a large selection for her to pick from even it means I have to read everybook she brings home.

    By Blogger anna, at 1/13/2006 02:38:00 PM  

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