ALA, OIF and YALSA Joint Response to the Meghan Cox article

Hello YALSA members and friends ,

ALA sent a letter to WSJ on 6/10 in response to the Meghan Cox Gurdon article. The letter was a joint response from ALA, OIF and YALSA. However, it now appears that the Wall St. Journal isn’t going to publish ALA’s response to the YA lit article so I wanted to make sure and share it with all of you’  just so you could be aware that it was sent and so that it was available to use as a jumping off point if anyone needs it as they conduct interviews or answer questions that may continue to arise.’ 
—-
In “Darkness Too Visible” (Bookshelf, June 4), Meghan Cox Gurdon shares her thoughts on the state of young adult (YA) fiction today, raising an alarm over what she feels is the negative influence of “dark” themes in YA literature. The author believes that contemporary works project “hideously distorted portrayals of what life is” and calls for a rejection of such undesirable material.

Unfortunately, Ms. Cox Gurdon’s piece suggest that the majority of today’s young adult literature is “dark.” ‘ In ‘ fact, there are nearly 2,000 titles published each year for teens that represent an unprecedented depth and breadth of subjects and themes.

The American Library Association is dismayed at the narrow and negative focus of this article, and the suggestion ‘ that’  adults should protect teenagers from what Ms. Gurdon believes are the dangerous effects of YA fiction. We also need to ‘ ‘ clarify our ‘ position in opposition to censorship, which Ms. Cox’  Gurdon both dismisses and misrepresents.

The article cites ALA’s annual lists of “frequently challenged books”, but fails to explain the meaning or purpose behind them. ALA documents challenges, which are formal requests to remove or restrict materials in libraries and schools. A challenge is not simply a complaint. It represents an effort to deny access to information and materials to others in the community – not just the individual and his or her own family.

ALA strongly affirms the right and responsibility of parents to guide their own children’s reading. Library collections allow families to select from a broad range of works, from across the generations – not just the latest trends. Parents can find the books that touched them in adolescence to share with their children, and can work with librarians to discover other or newer material that fits their interests and needs.’  In an effort to help librarians, educators and parents identify books that are a good fit for them and the young people they care about, ALA, through its division known as the Young Adult Library Services Association, compiles seven annual lists of recommended reading for teens and sponsors six’  young adult literature awards , selected by ‘ experts in the field, including librarians, educators and parents.

Librarians – working together with booksellers, publishers, and authors – take very seriously our role of providing access to books that can educate, enlighten, and entertain. We believe, as Ms. Cox Gurdon does, that what young people read is vitally important. We also recognize that all readers are unique, that young people vary greatly in the reading material that may positively impact them, and that’  we have a responsibility to provide access to a wide range of ideas.

Ms. Cox Gurdon’s distaste for certain themes in YA fiction misses ‘ the reality that such messages can be vitally important, life-changing, and even life-saving for some young readers. Her article suggests that the popularity and even the very existence of such literature crowds out more worthy or valuable books, and is an affront to particular moral values. The danger in Ms. Cox Gurdon’s argument is the ‘ implication that young readers, and even other parents and families, cannot be trusted to think for themselves. It encourages a culture of fear around YA literature – when we should instead be honoring the rich and unprecedented diversity of books and other reading materials available for young adults today.

With so many options to choose from, no parent should feel despair over the availability of reading material suitable for their children. Across the country, librarians, who are experts in matching the right book to the right young person,’  are eager to work with parents and young readers to select the best books and materials for them. Visit your local library and join us in celebrating the freedom to read!

Bookmark the permalink.

6 Comments

  1. I support young adults right to read. Books can open doors and offer solutions for young adults struggling with all manner of problems. Putting on rose colored glasses will not solve society’s problems.

  2. “A challenge is not simply a complaint. It represents an effort to deny access to information and materials to others in the community – not just the individual and his or her own family.”

    That is false. That is propaganda. People are entitled to ask their government for redress of grievances. The ALA even sets out the process to use to challenge materials. And now here is the ALA calling anyone who ever challenges a book a censor. The ALA has done this before when it used last Banned Books Week to create a video to ridicule as censors 100% of the hundreds who complained. That is false. That is propaganda.

    “ALA strongly affirms the right and responsibility of parents to guide their own children’s reading.”

    That is false. That is propaganda. The ALA thwarts the responsibility of parents to guide their own children’s reading. It purposefully and knowingly refuses to advise parents about the contents of books, even the ALA award winning books, so books containing things like oral sex are given top awards and parents are not notified in any way of the oral sex. So to say the ALA strongly affirms the right and responsibility of parents to guide their own children’s reading is false. It is propaganda. Instead, the ALA purposefully thwarts parental responsibility. Indeed this latest ALA propaganda piece it has written in response to the WSJ is further evidence of the ALA’s desperation to fool parents.

    “Ms. Cox Gurdon’s distaste for certain themes in YA fiction misses the reality that such messages can be vitally important, life-changing, and even life-saving for some young readers.”

    That is a strawman argument. The issue is not “vitally important, life-changing, and even life-saving for some young readers.” That’s the strawman. The issue is the contents of the material that is promoted, even awarded, by the ALA without providing notice as to the contents. Yes, books can save lives. But you give people enough information to make an informed decision as to whether a particular book is right for a particular person. You do not mislead them with incomplete information then belittle them as censors so as to force them to do as you demand. That’s a propaganda technique called jamming. Rather, you tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. You don’t tell a half truth then personally attack those who figure out they have been misled.

    “The danger in Ms. Cox Gurdon’s argument is the  implication that young readers, and even other parents and families, cannot be trusted to think for themselves.”

    Excuse me? Does the ALA think people are stupid? People spend their entire lives bringing up children a certain way to protect them and guide them appropriately. The ALA argument is that when it comes to the material about which it misleads parents and communities, suddenly everyone should drop their guard and allow children access to anything. Okay, then let’s be consistent. Drop the age requirements on cigarettes and let children be trusted to think for themselves. Drop the age requirements of statutory rape and let the children be trusted to think for themselves. Drop the age requirements for licensing drivers and let the children be trusted to think for themselves and drive when they feel for themselves they are ready. Heck, children are required to go to school. How about if we let children be trusted to think for themselves and decide for themselves if they feel they need further education.

    What Meghan Cox Gurdon has really exposed is the propaganda wall the ALA has set is slowly fading away as more people are catching on to the ALA’s games.

  3. “And now here is the ALA calling anyone who ever challenges a book a censor.”

    People who challenge books *are* censors, Mr. Kleinman. The question is not whether or not people challenging a book are practicing censorship, the question to be asked is, “Is this censorship reasonable and healthy?” Parents (responsible ones, anyway) practice censorship with their children every day. You’ll note that the ALA refers to this as both a right and a *responsibility* of parents, acknowledging that it is the parents’ decision what media their child is allowed to consume.

    Your second paragraph is unsubstantiated slander.

    Your claim of a strawman is, in itself, a strawman (I should point out that you have incorrectly use the term, btw). Do you really think the ALA writes the blurbs on the back of the books? Have you no idea how the publishing industry works? While we’re at it, have you no concept of using the internet? In this day and age, we have at our fingertips the most amazing information gathering tool ever conceived, and yet you blame others for not arranging the information for you in neatly sized bites. You need to take some responsibility for yourself and your child. Book reviews are available by the score on every single title you can think of, but you blame the ALA for not telling you every detail of every book? Sounds to me like you’re slacking off in your parental duties, personally.

    “The ALA argument is that when it comes to the material about which it misleads parents and communities, suddenly everyone should drop their guard and allow children access to anything. ”

    That is false. That is propaganda. What’s more, it is a deliberate lie. I will not mince words with you, Mr. Kleinman: you are deliberately misrepresenting the clear intentions of the ALA. Their only goal is to insure the AVAILABILITY of these books. At no point do they shove these books down the throats of readers. They encourage parents to place trust in their children’s intelligence, but at no point do they command them to bow to their whims. All I see is their exhortations for parental involvement being met by your shirking of responsibility and finger-pointing.

  4. Okay, Matthew Shaw, so you don’t believe me. Try these respected librarians on for size:

    “Will Manley Outs Library Profession as the Only One in the World That Wants Children to Have Access to Pornography; Annoyed Librarian Says Some Librarians Sound Like Smut Peddlars”

    http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2011/05/will-manley-outs-library-profession-as.html

  5. After reading over your site, I must confess that I have little interest in the dreck that you call content. The language you use makes it very clear that you have no interest in denying only children from have access to content you find objectionable. You want NO ONE to have access to content you find objectionable. I say again, stand up and act like a parent. Act like you actually give a damn about your child instead of letting automated systems handle their education. If you can’t be buggered to shepherd them through their formative years, why should the rest of us have to do it for you?

    Safe Libraries? Feh. You want safe happy little places where all the objectionable content is wiped away, where the scary Marxist texts and the icky icky homo writers are hidden behind a locked door, and preferably lit on fire, am I right? Libraries are dangerous places, Mr. Kleinman, because they give your children all the knowledge that it takes to discover that we need not be such closed minded cowards as you. People like you should be afraid of such places.

  6. Before I forget: I did read your ham-handed article and a few of those you linked to. Not once, not one single solitary time did anyone ever push any porn on anyone. ANYONE. Child or otherwise. The libraries are fulfilling their function, providing ACCESS to information. If children are accessing this information without parental consent but away from parental involvement, it’s because these parents are bad parents who are shirking their responsibilities. Deal with the truth, and fulfill your fatherly duties, Dan. Don’t shove them off on my shoulders.

Comments are closed