So I’ve been thinking quite a bit about censorship, primarily censorship in my role of Teacher. I went to Barnes & Noble two weeks ago to listen to Ellen Hopkins speak and sign books. Love her. She’s heartfelt, passionate, and REAL. Her books are too. But they’re also controversial. The topics range from drug abuse, emotional turmoil, prostitution…you get my point. Rough topics. Ellen, whom I call “Ellen” because she is THAT kind of down-to-earth person, opened the floor for a Q&A session. I raised my hand nervously. I’m curious by nature, but if I feel “all eyes are on me” I tend to clam up. But I had a question that I REALLY wanted an answer to. So, my nervousness took second reign.
ME: (paraphrased, cuz, y’know it HAS been two weeks) Your books are constantly being banned or considered controversial. Do YOU feel that there is an age that is too young for them?
ELLEN: (once again, paraphrased people!!) –something about high school- but for the most part, children will self censor.
And that’s when I vehemently nodded my head, feeling reassured. Later, I went up to her to get a book signed and rambled (and yes, I’m embarrassed by my ramble) that I was a middle school teacher but I do have her books because I also believe that students will pick up the books only if they’re interested. And if they’re interested there’s got to be a reason why. So, let them experience the Experience safely through books. And whether that experience is vicariously or merely because they need reassurance that they’re not alone, let them decide.
Before I get any backlash, let me do some explaining here. Justifying? Opening your eyes to my world?
Many of my kids didn’t have the life that I had growing up. We might have struggled, but my mom felt it was important that *I* not be privy to that. I was a CHILD, after all. I should be allowed to be a child for as long as possible. My students don’t always have that option.
The ages of my students are also a factor. Even though I teach in middle school we do have students who are fifteen (and even older).
Let me first and foremost say I LOVE MY KIDS. I treat them as though they were my own. They know my classroom is a safe environment and that I can be that go-to adult if necessary. My kids are good even if they have made poor choices. They are tough. Because they’ve HAD to be tough. They get told that they are different and they are treated differently. I am as candid as possible with them. I couldn’t imagine being in a different environment or a different school. My passion is in that classroom.
And sometimes the advice they need or the catharsis they deserve can’t come from me, but rather from a book. There are many authors that meet their needs. The Bluford series; Walter Dean Meyers, Ellen Hopkins, Julie Anne Peters.
These books are not for everyone, I agree. But I also believe that a struggling reader is not going to pick up books for a quick thrill. They’ve got the internet for that.
In today’s world, let’s cut some slack. Let’s trust what the kids are curious about. Let’s listen to them. Let’s meet their needs.
- Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen - it quickly moved up to 2nd place for Austen love
- The Magnolia League by Kate Crouch - coming out May 3
- The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins - also coming out May 3 GO GET IT
This week, I finished
- On Mystic Lake by Hannah (okay, this was a read specifically to talk to my PIL, partner-in-laws)
- Wings by Aprilynne Pike (a partner read with Jenn, check her out)
This up and coming week, I plan on reading