Monday, December 13, 2010

Choosing a classroom library

When is a book TOO controversial to put on your bookshelves?

Do you think any form of selection would be censorship or do you draw the line somewhere?  And why?

I draw a line, mostly from a standpoint of What do I hope a student gets out of this novel? and How much trouble could this book get me in?

Unfortunately, the latter is more of a concern.  I just quite frankly don't want to have to deal with some parent charging into my room, screaming at me about a book their child chose to read for enjoyment.  (What kind of reinforcement is that for the kid?)

I am currently reading The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell.  Now, honestly, I'm not sure if Bushnell intends for this to be a YA novel or just fun fiction for fans of Carrie Bradshaw in general.  And I don't have a problem with sex in a novel (well, okay, I have some limitations with it, as I don't intend to put any Nora Roberts or other novels with descriptive sex scenes on a classroom bookshelf), but there is a lot of thinking & talking about sex in this novel but without a lot of clear messages. 

Carrie is the only virgin out of her friends, but she doesn't really explain why she is waiting.  She has opportunities, but has yet to fully articulate why she isn't ready.  Another scene that comes to mind is when one of Carrie's friends threatens to get pregnant to keep a guy.  Carrie is the voice of reason in the scenario, and (thankfully) the friend comes off as somewhat unhinged.  Still, I'm not totally sure that a younger reader would remember that former scenario, when same friend mentions later that sex isn't a big deal, you finally have it and then wonder why you waited so long to do it.  Again, friend has already been established as unsympathetic, but in the latter scene, neither Carrie nor any of her friends respond to Crazy Girl's proclamation.  The opportunity is there for a discussion about why it is smart to wait, etc., but it passes on by.  I'm just not sure what message a teen would walk away from this book with.

Or am I being overprotective?  Should I just accept the fact that teens are already having sex and have probably already made up their minds about it?  Would a book really have any impact on that?

How do you pick which books are worthy of your classroom shelf?


  1. I don't have a classroom library (no room, plus we don't do silent reading, which this totally lame that we don't), but I do lend out books to kids quite a bit. I'm pretty liberal with books I lend out. If I read something, YA or adult, and I know a kid will enjoy it, I'm not terribly hesitant to give it. When it comes to YA lit, there are some books that might cross the line of inappropriateness, but I think that is the nature of YA lit today. So many authors are keeping up with the times and, forgive me, keeping it real, so it's hard to hide that stuff from kids when you know they'll enjoy it. So...that sort of answers your question?

  2. I have an ENORMOUS classroom library in my 10th grade room. It's my pride & joy. :) I do try to stock a lot of current and classic YA literature, but I don't shy away from (in fact, I chase after) tough subject matter and "problem novels." For me, I think recreational books are either entertainment/escapism, or a way to process and deal with the things going on in our lives. And our kids aren't living G-rated lives. I particularly go out of my way to find books with strong LGBTQ characters, and fiction/nonfiction books that deal with people surviving problems that my students face (eating disorders, drug use, teen pregnancy, parent issues, immigration, etc.).

    I will happily take on any parent in a fight to defend a book. :) So far I haven't had any problems - knock on wood!