Give Young Readers What They Want | Scales on Censorship

School librarians ask Pat about possible parental pushback, principal mandates, and political pressure on collections.

How do you give children the books they want without getting in trouble with parents?
Let children take the books they want. If a parent doesn’t like what a child brings home, it is up to that parent to take it up with the child. Should parents approach you about their children’s book selections, tell them you don’t police what kids choose. Talk with concerned parents about their objections. Explain why children are drawn to certain titles. You could try to facilitate a conversation between these parents and their kids to give young patrons a voice. If that fails, suggest other titles with similar appeal.

Sometimes kids know that parents object to a book and will keep it in their locker to read at school or at a friend’s house to read there. The young are attracted to “forbidden” books. Don’t interfere; let them find their way.

My state doesn’t have a “Don’t Say Gay” law, but my principal forbade the faculty from talking about LGBTQIA+ issues. I’m worried I may be reprimanded for having books on this topic.
Don’t assume that the principal’s mandate rules. The principal could face a serious backlash. Review the collection-development policy in the district’s board policy manual. I’m sure it states that school libraries service the needs of all students. “All” means LGBTQIA+ students, as well as all cultures, religions, and ethnicities. Knowing the policy will help if your principal approaches you with the mandate. Keep focused on the purpose of a school library.

I’m a new librarian in an elementary school in the state where Ruby Bridges resides. None of her books are in the collection. I know there have been issues with her books because of the theme of “racial justice.” What should I do?
Maybe the previous librarian allowed political opinion to shape the collection. This is inappropriate. Buy the books. Tell your young students that Ruby Bridges is a hero. Point out the courage it took for her to enter school as a six-year-old flanked by federal officers. She should be lauded as a role model for all kids. Don’t let political figures who are racial bigots scare you. I’m certain these books fit the criteria in the district’s collection-development policy.

Pat Scales is the former chair of ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee. Send questions to

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