Extra Credit: What Sort of Family Wants Stories Like This?
Dear Extra Credit:
I am a soon-to-be stepmother to a lovely 12-year-old girl. She recently brought home a bright pink book with yellow smiley faces on the cover titled "TTYL" (Talk To You Later, in text/Internet-speak). The author is Lauren Myracle. I thought to myself, "How cute; how perfect for a 12-year-old." I flipped through thinking I would find stories about nail polish and trips to the mall.
Instead, I found the tale of three 10th-grade girls who use the f-bomb, drink alcohol, dance topless at a frat party, have an outside-of-school relationship with a teacher and can't wait to lose their virginity. Plus, it's written as if it appeared in an online chat conversation. Our children should be expanding their vocabulary, not minimizing it. Who in their right mind thinks it's a good idea for a child to read a book that's missing most of its vowels?
This book came from the Washington Irving Middle School library in Springfield with a "Family Story" stamp on it. I immediately contacted the school counselor, who forwarded me to the librarian. She said, "It's hard to find books that don't have some cursing and sexual themes." Isn't it the job of a librarian to get age-appropriate material for the children to read? Is this the best we can do?
I submitted a formal challenge to the principal, which is now in the hands of the assistant superintendent for the Fairfax County schools. Regarding the "Family Story" stamp, the librarian told me, "That doesn't mean sit down and read it with your family. It means real-life situations." I am not ignorant of today's youth and their increasingly getting-older-younger/babies-having-babies/want-to-be-sexy ways, but why would our school libraries encourage this lifestyle? Have our schools given up?
Wow. I would have reacted as you did, if I had bothered to read the book. Lazy parents like me let our kids pick the books and rarely check. The "Family Story" stamp is particularly upsetting. That says G-rated to me.
Fairfax schools spokeswoman Mary Shaw says she cannot comment on the book while we wait for the School Board to decide on your challenge, which usually takes at least 45 days. But I hope library supervisors will rethink their interpretation of that stamp. Not all of us are as conscientious parents as you are. I wonder whether others in the region have had similarly unpleasant surprises in our school libraries.
Please send your questions, along with your name, e-mail or postal address and telephone number, to Extra Credit, The Washington Post, 526 King St., Suite 515, Alexandria, Va. 22314. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Washington Post Editors
| June 11, 2009; 3:12 PM ET
Categories: Extra Credit | Tags: middle school, school reading
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