Keeping Certain Books Out of the Hands of Children is NOT Censorship! – by Angela Hoy

Keeping Certain Books Out of the Hands of Children is NOT Censorship! – by Angela Hoy

When I was nine years old, I managed to get my hands on Forever by  Judy Bloom. What a coup that was!! My parents would have NEVER let me read a book like that. And, my friends’ parents wouldn’t let them, either. A friend of mine pilfered it from her older sister and it made the rounds amongst my friends. When it was my turn, I devoured it. And, I came away a much more “knowing” 9-year-old girl.

At my maturity level back then, I had no business reading graphic teenage sex scenes and, I won’t go into details, but part of me changed during and after reading that book. Perhaps if I hadn’t been exposed to that at such a young age, I may not have gotten pregnant just out of high school.

When our oldest child was in 1st Grade, he brought home a book he’d gotten from the elementary school library. I was just 25 (do the math) but, because of my own past, I already knew to frequently check my child’s reading materials. The very first page was an excerpt from the book and it had a strong sex scene (between teenagers – obviously meant to attract young people to the book). I took it to the school the next day to show the principal. She looked at the first page, slammed the book shut, turned in her chair, and dropped it in the garbage can.

The fact is, not every book is right for children. And, the people best equipped to judge a child’s maturity, and that child’s readiness for exposure to certain “adult” things in life are, you guessed it, the PARENTS.

While I am not one for censorship, that word doesn’t even remotely apply to what we’re discussing here. A book targeting an adult audience should not be “censored.” But, that book should also NOT appear in elementary or middle school libraries. Even high schoolers have immature brains and they are extremely susceptible to suggestion. There, too, the parents should be in charge of deciding what their child can and can’t read.

The whole political “censorship” argument that seems to be all over the Internet right now is ridiculous. Many who claim “censorship” don’t give a second thought to the fact that movies have ratings. And, for what reason? TO PROTECT IMPRESSIONABLE YOUNG MINDS!

Seems to me that some of the most vocal “censorship” complainers are the ones who want control over what YOUR children read. They don’t believe a parent is the right person for the job. And that, folks, is RIDICULOUS.

So, I’m going to keep controlling what my one remaining under-aged child reads, and you do the same. But, do NOT expect me to let ANYBODY else tell me that I don’t get to control what MY child’s impressionable mind is reading!

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21 Responses to "Keeping Certain Books Out of the Hands of Children is NOT Censorship! – by Angela Hoy"

  1. Pingback: I Believe Children Shouldn’t Be Exposed to Sexual Content and Now I’m a HOMOPHOBIC RACIST? HA HA HA! | WritersWeekly.com

  2. Walter Goralski  February 12, 2022 at 1:21 pm

    Yes, Angela, “not every book is right for children.” Who would argue with that? But I respectfully disagree with how the role of parenting gets transformed into “should NOT appear in elementary or middle school libraries.” I think the expectation that a school library accessible to K-8, or even K-whatever, should be the primary gatekeeper for reading materials for a wide range of ages (K = 5, 8th = 13 in most states) is the very definition of government overreach (and censorship). And this will not stop, as in your case, stolen books from circulating among students too young for the material.

    This is not to say there are not issues. Libraries could separate materials for kids and young teens, and librarians can try to make sure that children are looking at and checking out age-appropriate books and materials. No bookstore restricts children to one section of the store.

    But the issue today goes far beyond reading print books. My wife has been an elementary school art teacher for almost 20 years. She has to screen every page of every K-8 art book (and museum URL image) for exposed breasts or other things (taping over is not a solution: tape is removable; sharpies deface the books). Teaching 7-8th grade in times of puberty used to be challenging enough, but when “secondary sexual characteristics” emerge in 3-4th grade, as they do today, that’s even tougher.

    Moreover, the NEA says that the average age that a child encounters porn online is 6. Not 6th grade: 6 years old. I work in tech, and the role of the porn industry in Internet hardware and software optimization cannot be underestimated. As recently as 2002, you could not watch the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show online. But thanks to the efforts of many, porn delivery has blazed the trail (and paid the bills) for broadband. How many parents know exactly what their kids are watching while doing their “homework”?

    My wife tells me that kids she teaches are more discriminating and sophisticated than people think. By middle school, kids today could probably be writing some of those books, and know what’s real and what is not. (7th graders told her when she taught journalism that “BBC” is not about British broadcasting, but stands for a sexual preference.)

    A related problem is the utter lack of realistic sex education in schools in the USA (it’s very different in many European countries, and they have fewer problems with young sex than we do: abstinence is a harsh master). If “high schoolers have immature brains and they are extremely susceptible to suggestion,” then schools should do a better job of educating them about that, not “protecting” them from a world they have already encountered since age 6.

    Kids have to be taught that porn is not loving sex. And fiction is not the place to learn about school-age sexual relationships. But many states forbid teaching those things. That’s the parent’s job, supposedly.

    Many parents today do not really want to be parents to their children. They want to be their friends. It’s hard to discipline a child for inappropriate skirt length or cleavage or (for boys) sagging pants and shocking T-shirts, when the students are really miniature versions of the people who should be enforcing the school rules at home. The vulgarization of modern America is everyone’s problem.

    Bottom line: of course controlling what anyone reads is censorship! That’s the definition of the term. The point is that censoring what children read is not only desirable, it’s an essential role of a parent. But please don’t encourage the school or the state or anyone else to do it, because that power is easily subverted to other purposes.
    Sincerely,
    Walter

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  February 12, 2022 at 6:54 pm

      I agree with most of what you wrote. However, you said, “Libraries could separate materials for kids and young teens, and librarians can try to make sure that children are looking at and checking out age-appropriate books and materials.”

      The problem is many schools don’t (and won’t) do this. They let children check out whatever they want. Most of them simply don’t care anymore.

      One of my relatives has been an elementary school teacher for more than 30 years. She says teachers are now overpaid babysitters. They spend almost all of their time trying to control bad behavior, and discipling children…but their options are, of course, very limited. With all the babysitting, breaking up fights, bullying, crimes, trying to get parents involved, etc., school employees don’t have time to look over the shoulder at children’s reading materials. It’s up to the parents, not schools, to decide what their child is mature enough (or not) to read.

      I also vehemently disagree that a school employee or any school district administrator should be choosing what all children should or should not have access to in a school library. THAT is government overreach at its core.

      Controlling what a young child reads is NOT censorship. It’s called parenting. Controlling what EVERYONE reads IS censorship. That is NOT what my article was about.

      Angela

  3. Deborah Day Poor  February 12, 2022 at 8:13 am

    Angela,

    I greatly appreciate your honest, sincere concerns about parent’s need to monitor what their children are exposed to. Our film industry rates movies because young children should only view G rated shows.
    I have worked as a psychotherapist for over 30 years. In my book, “Beyond reason: How To Deal With Difficult Loved Ones” I share the difference between three parenting styles. Research has shown that the authoritarian style (because I said so) makes kids want to rebel and the permissive style makes them feel unloved. The authoritative style is by far the best.. A parent using this style would keep the lines of communication open with their kids by spending time with them and by trying to see things from their child’s perspective. And, they would not fall into the permissive style by allowing their child to do anything that could harm them or someone else. Reading material that they are not mature enough to handle needs to be censored by their parents.
    Deborah Day Poor, LCSW

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  February 12, 2022 at 6:56 pm

      Thank you so much, Deborah! I LOVE that a professional weighed in on this!!

      I did not know about the three parenting styles. Bless you for sharing that!! 🙂

      Angela

  4. Kelly H  February 12, 2022 at 3:41 am

    Angela, I agree with your premise and applaud you for your boldness in writing this column. Reading your post and the responses brought several thoughts to mind:

    1.) Young children should not be exposed to sexually explicit materials. It is developmentally inappropriate for them and potentially harmful to them. Young children are very impressionable. Sexually explicit material can cause young children emotional trauma and can even result in children trying to re-enact the book content in ways that may harm not only themselves but also other children. I know this having worked with children with mental and behavioral disorders.

    2.) The argument that books should not be censored in schools is a fallacy. Whether they admit it or not, schools censor what books to put on the shelves all the time. They do not put books that encourage racism in the library. They would not put a manual on how to make bombs or a book that celebrates gun violence in the library. Many school systems even shy away from putting Bibles or other religious books in their libraries. School libraries are not public libraries, which are for all members of the community and should provide an extremely diverse range of books that meet the wants and needs of all community members. School libraries are for only a segment of society, a segment whose minds are not yet fully developed. Children should not be treated as mini-adults.

    3.) There is a false belief that all “censorship” is wrong. I argue that certain things are so reprehensible that they must be “censored.” One such example is child pornography. Another is terroristic threats.

    4.) Currently, “censorship” happens frequently in the adult world when people are blocked from social media platforms because what they posted is deemed misinformation. Another example, as mentioned above, is terroristic threats. When found on a website, terroristic threats are “censored” by being taken down and the writer of the threat is blocked and even prosecuted. Why would we treat our children less carefully than adults?

    5.) Even a diverse society needs some common values, such as protecting the safety and welfare of the public by banning drunk driving, making laws against assault, outlawing murder, and even, I would argue, protecting young children from developmentally inappropriate subject matter, such as explicit sexual images and words, which may cause lasting mental trauma. This is not based on the opinion of one parent, as some suggest, but upon child development principles.

    6.) On another note, the argument that “children can get this material elsewhere: is a fallacy of fallacy. Underlying such logic is the thinking that because children can get it, schools should provide it. Following this logic, one could say that because youth can get illicit drugs from other sources, schools should make illicit drugs available for students. Using the illicit drug example, one sees how that logic falls apart. Just because something is widely available does not make it desirable. It may even be undesirable, unsafe, or inappropriate.

    Thank you, Angela, for advocating for the welfare of children.

    Respectfully,

    Kelly

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  February 12, 2022 at 6:59 pm

      I applaud your comment, Kelly! This is EXCELLENT!!! I should have had YOU write the article!!

      BRAVO!!!!

      Angela

  5. Jon Bard  February 11, 2022 at 4:54 pm

    Here’s the thing: Most parents and special interest groups seeking to ban books in schools are specifically targeting certain types of books – not just those who have “adult” or sexual content.

    As this list shows, the banning attempts were, in the words of NBC News who researched the situation in Texas, “nearly all related to titles dealing with racism, gender or sexuality.”

    https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/texas-library-books-banned-schools-rcna12986

    This isn’t about sex – it’s about kids having access to books that talk about the history of racism in our nation (and its current existence), gender identity and sexual orientation.

    Considering that there are millions of children of color and millions of LGBTQ kids served by our public schools, removing works that speak to them (and encourage tolerance and acceptance from their classmates) seems cruel and counterproductive.

    Yes, sexually explicit material may certainly be inappropriate for some “young impressionable minds”. But that’s not we’re talking about when we discuss the current push to rid schools of books that offend some people’s political and cultural sensibilities.

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  February 12, 2022 at 7:03 pm

      My articles was not about cultural topics. I specifically mentioned age-inappropriate sex in books. And, I would not trust a list of books published in one article by one news source.

      I downloaded and read two “censored” books that were all over the news two months ago and, believe me, they were NOT for children. There was sex in both of them and graphic images of pedophilia in another. Yet, some were screaming about them being “censored” by elementary schools. Ridiculous.

      And, if you trust schools to provide a wholesome, age-appropriate education for children, I recommend reading this:
      https://www.christianpost.com/news/school-district-apologizes-for-pizza-consent-sex-assignment.html?

      Angela

  6. van42@hotmail.com  February 11, 2022 at 1:07 pm

    This is a subject best left to Grandmas and mothers… NOT to government and corporate screwups!

  7. Marlene Barney  February 11, 2022 at 12:12 pm

    Thank you, Angela, for providing this wonderful and valuable service to writers at all levels! As a former high school teacher, I disagree with the headline and some of the premise of your article. (1) As someone who has worked with school librarians to provide engaging books to students, often “reluctant readers,” good librarians order “leveled” books from their book vendors. In other words, the books are screened for age appropriateness, as well as reading level literacy.
    (2) I agree that parents should regularly check their minor children’s backpacks and rooms, and computers to see what they’re reading. Also check for drugs and online predators. You are a parent first and a friend second. If you find something you don’t want your child exposed to, have a conversation with him/her before you decide to trash/delete/take it.
    (3) Kids get books from various sources, not just school libraries. These sources include their parents’ bookshelves, friends (as you did), neighbors (I read adult sexy books from my neighbors shelves when I babysat), other public llibraries, bookstores, and online. A curious kid can go anywhere and find salacious, age-inappropriate reading material.
    (4) Who gets to make the final decision as to what books are banned and which are not. It’s hard to find a group of parents who are all in agreement. One of my student’s parents didn’t want their daughter to read Harry Potter books because they contained magic. I accommodated them by making sure she wasn’t reading or checking out Harry Potter books in my presence, but she could easily get her hands on Harry Potter books in other ways. And would all parents agree that Harry Potter should be banned? This was a religious choice for those parents, but religious beliefs shouldn’t be forced on all people. It was up to those parents to monitor their daughter.

    Book banning is censorship. It is dangerous and it is ineffective.

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  February 11, 2022 at 1:46 pm

      1. The problem is school boards and librarians are no longer screening books for age appropriate content. If anything, they’re putting anything and everything on the shelves to see how far they can push the envelope, to the detriment of the well being of young minds. That’s just one of the reasons why so many people are turning to homeschooling. It’s sad that poor decisions by administrators (not just reading material choices) are forcing so many families to remove their children from public and even private schools.

      2. The problem with waiting until after the book has been checked out is that parents aren’t there after the child has visited the library on a particular day – in the lunchroom, in study hall, and on the bus ride home, where the child has already been able to start reading the book…or looking at graphic pictures. Parents may have to wait hours to check their child’s reading material.

      3. So, just because they *might* find a salacious book elsewhere makes it okay for elementary school libraries to blatantly offer adult content to children?

      4. As I wrote to another poster on here, where do YOU draw the line on what books should or should not be available in elementary schools? What about an anthology of stories from Penthouse? How about a photo book from The Best of Playboy? What about that book that Amazon published that taught child molesters how to groom their victims?

      Where do you, as an educator AND a parent, draw the line?

  8. Patti Wade  February 11, 2022 at 8:56 am

    Spot on! The entitlement of school officials, boards, etc. to approve books flirting with or blatantly promoting ‘mature’ themes sickens me. Kudos to the parents and teachers who guard the innocence of young minds. Shame on the authors and publishers who market them as child appropriate. Not censorship, but adult responsibility to protect the hearts and minds of little ones. Sad that on that one thing, ‘mature’ adults can’t agree.

  9. Jeana  February 11, 2022 at 8:52 am

    I’m an educator and a writer, and honestly, this post made me unsubscribe from your mailing list. Teachers need to be included in this conversation, because if we leave every decision up to parents, parents with bigotry (not saying this is the case with you, just that it applies to many in the U.S.) will simply continue to pass on their values to their children.

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  February 11, 2022 at 1:31 pm

      So, you think that it’s YOUR job to raise an child – any child? That it’s YOUR job to decide if a parent is bigoted when you don’t live in that child’s home? It’s YOUR job to determine how that child should be raised and what they should be exposed to?

      And, you think that MOST people in the U.S. are bigoted?

      WOW.

  10. Andy Romanoff  February 11, 2022 at 5:13 am

    No question you have a right to control your childs reading, The problem is that you don’t have a right to control my childs reading. Removal of books from a library by well meaning parents affects all the readers and that is classically … censorship.

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  February 11, 2022 at 1:33 pm

      So, you think that elementary school libraries should start lending out Penthouse? 50 Shades of Gray? The book that Amazon published that teaches pedophiles how to groom their victims?

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  February 11, 2022 at 1:51 pm

      If you want your child reading adult content, you can take your child to the town library. Adult content has no place in children’s school libraries where parents are not able to screen their child’s reading choices.

      A child using a school library with adult content can check out whatever they want, put the book in their locker and hide it from their parent. Do you, as a parent, think that’s a good idea? Are you okay with your child reading *anything* that a school board administrator (who doesn’t even know your child) thinks your child should be reading? Even something that may make your child do something that you may find appalling? Something that may cause lasting harm to your child’s mental health, or worse? What about books that romanticize or glorify suicide? Self-harm? Promiscuousness? Adult/child sexual relationships? All of those books are out there, and worse. Far worse. Should they all be in your child’s school library?

      As I have stated to others here, where do you, as a parent, draw the line?

  11. Nicole Larson  February 11, 2022 at 3:43 am

    Hi, Angela,

    I’m curious about your views.

    What do you think about the removal of Maus from the schools in a Tennessee county? And the removal of books with LGBTQ and civil rights themes from Texas schools? Or To Kill a Mockingbird?

    Do you think that one parent should be able to determine what all kids get to read, if the books are otherwise widely respected?

    Thanks!

    Nicole Larson

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  February 11, 2022 at 1:36 pm

      Age appropriate books. That’s what the article is about. Where do *you* draw the line on what books are or are not appropriate for young children? Or, do you have any line at all?

  12. kevin mullaney  February 11, 2022 at 2:32 am

    Angela, One of the things that attracted me to Booklocker was after I read what Mark Levine wrote in ‘The Fine Print” where he said, “they’re (Booklocker) selective and won’t publish any manuscript…” and “only publishes quality books”. I met Mark in Minneapolis (2014) when he was part of Mill City Press and I was looking for a publisher to publish my first book. He gave me a tour of his facility and I was impressed at how they all worked together. After Mark left, I looked elsewhere to find another respectable and affordable publisher. Your words on book banning are certainly well taken and I think a controversial book, especially hate-driven & sexually explicit books, deserves some scrutiny and reflects on the publishing company as well. I wouldn’t want to be associated with a company that publishes anything just for the $$. So, thank you for building a respectable publishing company where authors can feel like family. km