Parents Call Police To A Book Giveaway
The young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, is number three on the Top Ten Challenged Books List for 2013. Actually, it has been somewhere on that list since 2010 for its reference to drugs, alcohol, and smoking; offensive language; racism; sexual explicitness (referring to masturbation); and its unsuitability to the age group. And the book will probably make the list again for 2014.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is a National Book Award winner, is about a Native American teen who decides to leave his troubled school on the reservation to attend an all-white school where he is the only Native American. Basically, it’s a coming-of-age story, and who doesn’t like that?
Apparently, the parents in one Idaho school district do not. They had successfully campaigned to remove the book from the 10th grade curriculum and other reading lists because of its sexual and anti-Christian content. As any parent of teenagers knows, once you tell them they can’t do something, they will then strive to do the polar opposite. The school district’s teenagers started a petition to have the book reinstated, collecting 350 signatures of other teens.
Local bookstore Rediscovered Books started a crowdfunding campaign to buy the book for each of the 350 kids. They raised $3,400—enough for each kid to get his or her own book.
The bookstore worked with Brady Kissel, a student who was involved with the petition, to give the books away on World Book Night. All but 20 books were claimed. But then the police showed up because they had been called by “someone concerned about teenagers picking up a copy of the book without having a parent’s permission.”
The police talked to Brady, but found nothing wrong because no crime was being committed. She carried on with the giveaway.
In a funny twist, when the Alexie’s book publisher—Hachette Book Group—found out about the incident they sent 350 more books free of charge, ensuring that any kid who wants a copy of the book can get one.
I once had a student whose father came to the school to have a conference with me. He objected to a book the class was reading. It had what he considered strong language (no f-bombs or anything; words like damn and bastard) and, he said, as a Christian, he just didn’t want his son to read it. I had no problem with that, so I gave an alternate assignment.
One thing the father made clear was that while he had strict standards for his son, other parents had different standards. He wasn’t trying to keep the class from reading the book—he just didn’t want his son to read the book. That’s why he came and talked to me rather than make a big deal about it to the principal or other parents. I appreciated this father’s take on things because other parents didn’t object to the book.
Who is any parent to decide what my kid should read? If you don’t like a particular book, then don’t let your child read it. But don’t tell me my child can’t read it. While there are books I don’t want my children to read until they are ready, I wouldn’t dream of telling you what’s inappropriate for your child. No parent except THE parent gets to make that decision.
Parents have the right to speak up to teachers or administrators if they don’t want their child to read a book that’s part of the curriculum. But calling the police because a bookstore is giving away a book you don’t like? Ban the book at your house and have a seat.
How do you feel about challenged books? Did the parent go too far in calling the police to the book giveaway? Share your thoughts below.