I'm a bookstore whore, but when I was a kid it was the neighborhood library I loved. The Fair Oaks Library sat on a hill, among the trees with giant picture windows and aisle after aisle of books. I remember going there as a kid and just getting lost among the titles, trying to find on that caught my interest.
I learned a lot about the world, and lots about myself, in books; what I liked, where I wanted to go, what I wanted to be. In books. But, if you can't get to the books, how would you ever know what the world is like, or where you might fit into it.
In Utah, last June, the Davis County School District caved to the complaints of 25 parents and took a book off the shelf. That book, In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco, was about a family with two moms. Now, the district didn't exactly banish the book, they simply removed it from the general population and held it behind the counter so you'd have to ask for it. That is, if you even know they had the book since it wasn't on a shelf any longer. And, to make it just that much harder to read it, students had to have a parental permission slip to read it.
Well, last November, the ACLU got involved and now, suddenly, the school has reversed course and put the book back on the shelf where it belongs. In fact, in response to the ACLU, the district’s assistant superintendent, Pamela Park, said the committee that had reviewed the situation actually had positive things to say about In Our Mothers’ House, including that it will help prevent bullying:
I have considered the written summary and recommendations of the District Reconsideration Committee. I agree with and support the Committee’s conclusions regarding the book as follows:
- “Removing the book completely is not a good option.”
- “We all know many non-traditional families” with students attending our schools.
- “It could help those children in same sex families see their family in a book.”
- “[T]his book teaches acceptance and tolerance.”
- “The book could help prevent bullying of kids from same sex families.”
- “It could be used by a family to discuss the issues . . .”
And this is in Utah.
Now, parents can still restrict what books their children check out from the library, but it doesn't prevent any student from reading this book, or any other book, in the library itself.
Imagine. You're a young kid, wondering if you're gay, wondering how to be gay, and what it means, and how it works, and can you be like anyone else, and you’re afraid to ask your parents about it. But you hear about a book, about a family with two moms, and, well, maybe, this book is about you. You fit in. You understand yourself. And how can that be wrong?
Kudos to the district for understanding that books like these help kids understand themselves better, and understand the world around them better. And that's the great thing about books.