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Inside Practically Paradise

Do you "interfere" with student choices?

Just stating the question in the manner I did shows my bias; however, the phrasing came from a recent conversation on LM_NET about "Teacher Interference." (Be sure to visit the archives periodically and scan the topics of which we’ve been chatting.)

During the discussion Barbara Braxton, Australia, shared her stand and wrote:

teachers do not have the right to determine what a child  chooses to read during non-instructional time.  So I would ask how you would respond to a hypothetical situation such as this …

Imagine your child has chosen to read The Bible or the Koran and takes it to school, or borrows it from the library, to continue reading during silent reading opportunities in the class.  You support his/her choice.  But the TEACHER refuses to let the child read it simply because he/she disagrees with its subject matter because of his/her personal beliefs.

Would you support the teacher’s decision? Would you defend your child’s choice?  Is such a situation
not censorship?  Does it not conflict with the individual’s right to read which I think is guaranteed in your Constitution somewhere?

I personally have witnessed teachers trying to refuse to allow students to check out the following:

  • drawing books
  • Manga
  • Goosebumps
  • joke books
  • I Spy/Waldo books
  • Egyptian mummies
  • easy nonfiction
  • biographies of people they don’t approve
  • shrunken heads
  • Guinness World Record books
  • Ripley’s Believe It or Not
  • Harry Potter
  • Twilight
  • long books
  • short books
  • sports record books
  • paranormal topics
  • not at their "AR level"

I do not allow teachers to override student choice. What I will do is if a teacher insists a child must check out a chapter book (or other qualification), I will allow the student an additional title of his or her choice. 

How would you feel if you wandered your public library gathering a pile of books then were forbidden to check out any titles that were not intended to make your life more intellectual or wholesome?

One of my jobs as teacher-librarian is to enable students to learn how to make life-long choices. We librarians knew how to recommend books before strict "reading levels" were thrust upon students. I do not have a canned reading program this year and reading is occurring in record numbers. I will continue to teach students "how" to find books that match their interests. What will you do?

Okay, with all of that said, I do have a relatively safe library collection. I’ll be fair and open the conversation up to more gray areas in considering the issue of whether you believe you have the right or obligation to "interfere" or intercede.

What exactly is non-instructional time? 

Do you consider any time that a student is at school to be instructional time? 

If that’s the case, then do you control what students read during SSR or DEAR times? 

Do you dig through a student’s backpack to make sure they don’t bring anything controversial to school? 

What if a child brings in a bodice-ripper novel? Do you take offense and rip it from their hands? Do you tell them it’s trash and demeaning to women?

Does your opinion change if the child simply reads it on their own or if the child causes a near-riot from sharing it with everyone? 

What if a child brings in a catalog of AK-47’s and armour-piercing bullets?

What if the child is reading something that is illegal for minors to possess such as pornography?

While you think about these issues, I hope you received notice of this event to occur during the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago this summer.



  1. teacherninja says:

    I’d buy MORE comics, drawing books, manga, goosebups, etc….