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.


Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Henrietta Hedgehog's Prickly Problem by Carole P. Roman

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

 I have long been a fan of Carole P.  Roman's Books. I was excited to receive this one in the mail. Henrietta is a hedgehog who is teased at school about her looks. She tries to disguise herself. All this accomplishes is hurting another animal's feelings. Henrietta learns from other animals that they are all different for a reason and being different is okay. This is a lesson that so many children need to hear. Every day I hear kids complaining about what someone said about the way they look. As a teacher it breaks my heart to hear this from any student. Excellent book, a must read.

Monday, January 16, 2023

They Came From the Trees by Christopher Francis


Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Source: I own a copy

We have a great young adult novel with characters from one of the author's previous books. Margaret, Bailey and Sheldon have returned from, "That Thing in the Sky" which was about an invasion where aliens healed a lot of people on earth. They healed Margaret's mother of her cancer and Sheldon's father of his blindness.  In this book the aliens are back, but they aren't like the ones before. We have aliens who decide who is worthy to live and who should die. They want to merge with the healthy humans to create a "perfect" world. For everyone who has ever read dystopian/utopian books such as, "The Giver", we know there is always a flaw in those types of worlds. Sheldon, Bailey, and Margaret join up with a group of other teens who are doing their best to survive. They face some tough life changing situations and have to make some tough questions. I like that Mr. Francis didn't water this down as far as the fight scenes with the aliens. It truly was like watching a movie. I must continue with the next book, "They came to the Island."  This is really a must read for everyone who likes Science Fiction.