Thursday, January 19, 2023

Taking Books Away From Our Students

"Books and ideas are the most effective weapons against intolerance and ignorance." —— Lyndon B Johnson

"I have it that Americans are taught to fear some books and some ideas as though they were diseases..." —— Kurt Vonnegut

This is my favorite:

"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture, Just get people to stop reading them. -- Ray Bradbury

I promised my principal yesterday I would not post what I am going to say here, on Facebook. I did not say I wouldn't post it on my blog.

The first item on yesterday's Department Chair agenda was to tell us of something new he had learned at his principal's meeting. Due to a State House Bill, as of today, I have to box up and secure my classroom library. My principal is not happy about this, and he did mention the fact that I have worked so hard, like my whole department, to get kids to read. At the beginning of the school year, they would send out a list almost weekly of books that were challenged or banned. We had to pull these from our library. This was ironic because one of those books on the list has an excerpt, one chapter, in our new textbooks. We were told to skip that reading until further notice.
He pointed out he was trying to find boxes for me because not only do I have eleven bookcases in my room, but I also have two cabinets full. Some of these were gifted to me by authors. Between the cabinets and my bookshelves, I have nearly 2,000 books, separated by genre. So let me tell you some reasons I am angry.

Every year I MAKE my students set a goal of at least 15 books from 11 different genres. A lot of these kids would never read if you didn't make them. I also do this to introduce them to different genres. I have helped turn many non-readers into readers. The best compliment I have ever received was from a kid many years ago that came to me on the last day of school. His exact words were, "I want you to know I hate you. You taught me to love reading." Then he hugged me. Students don't always know what to pick, and I can help with that. Many students have no access to books at home or to the public library. These are the reasons why I have so many books. My principal knew I was hurting. He sat beside me and told me he had asked if we could just put curtains over our bookcases, and he was told no. A student might reach around and take one off the shelf. He said he felt we had returned to the days of Hitler and book burnings.

Although this is said to be a temporary thing, it hurts. We were supposed to Buddy-Read with elementary next week. Now my middle school students won't have that joy of sitting and reading with a younger child. We are a 100% choice school, and I tell potential students about my extensive library to hopefully draw them in. We are waiting, for who knows how long, for our district to tell us what we have to do, what hoops we have to jump through to be able to put them back on our shelves. ALL books have to be vetted to be placed back on our shelves. Tell me, who in our downtown offices will have time to read my 2,000 books? How long will my students have to go without reading anything except dry, boring textbooks? Here is what really scares me. We were told that if we violate this it could be considered a 3rd-degree felony. Are we as a society criminalizing reading? For the sake of our world, I sure hope not.


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