Book Club Dilemma
I have been so excited to launch book clubs for the jr/sr. high. Literacy is so important and should be practiced outside of school, not only in classes. I compiled a list of about 20 books to assist students when they picked their first book club book. I told them the books were merely suggestions and if they wanted to read a different book that would be perfectly fine. They ended up choosing a book that was on the list, and ironically the book is also titled The List.
Because I’m not getting paid to teach (thank you student teaching), I simply can’t afford to buy more than one copy of a book. I asked the school library if they would be willing to get a copy. The next week a copy arrived. Yay! The students would be so excited, I thought.
Unfortunately, the response I received in return was less than enthusiastic. I was told that the book had sexual content and profanity. “I don’t know about you,” I was told. It was as if this person thought I was giving students Playboy to drool over or casting a spell on poor, innocent students. It was as if he thought that students reading about sex would make them go out and have sex. I was also informed that the book is, thankfully, an AR book. At a fourth grade reading level.
I felt degraded, unfairly judged, and most of all hurt. I’m promoting literacy and trying to foster a love for reading in students. I’m showing them that real readers exist in the world, and real readers read about real issues. I’m letting them know I care about them and respect their reading decisions.
After that off-handed comment, I tore into the book. Oh, you say there’s sex in the book? Let me read it. Oh, you think it’s inappropriate for teenagers? Let me read it. I’m not going to trust the (perhaps biased) reviews on AR. I’m the professional; I’m going to make the call myself.
After reading the book, I came to a few conclusions. Yes, two characters have sexual intercourse. The description is not graphic and it is brief. It is also not the focus of the book. What the book brings to light is popularity, hazing, outcasts, self-imagery, eating disorders, and self-discovery. These are topics students need to be talking about in safe environments instead of experimenting with on their own. We need to open discussions about these topics in school.
I decided to send a short letter home to parents of students interested in reading the book, requiring a parent signature.
I’ve already gotten ten slips returned.