To Read or Not to Read

Actually, that isn’t the question.

The question is do I put the book I just read on the shelf for students to read?

This summer I read two wonderful books that I would love to pass on to students I think might like them. One was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. The other Crank. Both told great stories that I was drawn into and loved.

Both had scenes in them completely inappropriate for immature readers. If I taught high school,  I would put them on the shelf immediately. I teach middle school, however. Sure I have kids would read and enjoy them, even learn from them, but I also have students who wouldn’t really get them, and parents who would be offended that I gave their baby a book this graphic. (Although it needs to be said, the sex and drug use described in the books is not gratuitous and is necessary to understand the characters.)

So what do I do with these books? Do I put them on the shelves and say tough luck to the parents who don’t want their kids exposed to them (I’m a parent and would be outraged if a teacher ignored my concerns)? Do I pass them on to another teacher whose students might be more ready for them? Do I keep them in a special bin in the back and only pass them out to the students who I know are ready for them and whose parents won’t mind?

Any ideas? Please?

(Adding How I Made it to Eighteen to the list.)

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “To Read or Not to Read

  1. I’m so glad you’re asking this question. I bought The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in the spring. I LOVED it and wanted to share it with students, but hesitated – just as you are doing now. I ask parents to sign a permission form at the beginning of the year, allowing their children to read books that may have mature language and themes. Even though most signed the form, I worried about putting this book on my shelf. Not sure what I’ll do in the fall, but it doesn’t seem right to keep such a great book from students who would, no doubt, love it as I did.

    Mardie

  2. I vote for giving students access. But I also haven’t taught middle school. Or English.

    Permission slips (or at least a good talk with the administration to have them on board) seem like a smart move.

  3. hrmason

    I like the permission slip idea and have has some tell me about a questionnaire type thing where parents can give more details about what they do and don’t want their kids to read. Think I will try one of those. Thanks.

    But what do I do with the books in the meantime? And is it possible to keep up with who can and can’t read certain books?

  4. I’m putting all my votes toward the private shelf. I have one behind my desk that I use for multiple purposes. First, for books like the ones you mention. Second, for any titles I’ve had to replace. Third, for sure-fire hits. Finally, and perhaps most important, for personal favorites.

    Student choice and freedom is incredibly important. However, there is something extra-special about going back to the “secret” shelf, picking out a book, handing it to a student and saying, “I think this one would be just right for you.” Without the private shelf, you can still do that, but it’s not quite as special.

    • PS – that way you could also check with a parent ahead of time. You know, call and say, “hey, I think this book would be great for your child; here are some potential issues; I think your child is mature enough to understand them and benefit from exploring the ideas in this manner.” Then if the parent says NO NO NO you just let them know you won’t hand the book to their kid.

  5. My ‘mature’ reads are in a basket titled ‘special permission’. Almost all of my students get the form signed by parents, but I still keep the ‘mature reads’ separate. I agree with Clix; it’s very inviting to go to that shelf or basket.

    I must say, though, that I don’t really monitor every book that’s checked out of my classroom library. It’s an honour system, and as far as I can tell, it’s been honoured.

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