Monday, September 22, 2014

Libraries champion our freedom! Helping our students understand their freedom to read (ages 8-12)

Freedom is an essential element of democracy, and the freedom to read is a cornerstone of American democracy. And yet how do we help our children understand the importance of this fundamental right? Abstract declarations are pretty hard for kids to grasp, but they will get immediately involved if they start considering a concrete example that relates to them.

When I explained today that many schools ban Captain Underpants because it uses offensive language, our 5th graders were outraged! They told me that was just awful, and that kids should definitely be able to read Captain Underpants. They were incredulous that Harry Potter had been banned in schools and libraries. Pretty quickly, they could see why it is so important to stand up for our freedom to read what we want.

Libraries across the US champion our freedom each and every day. This week, we band together to defend that freedom and celebrate Banned Books Week. If you want more information, I'd highly recommend looking at these resources:
Our overall right is important to me, but I care most about how books impact individual kids. We need a wide range of books in our libraries because we need to connect so many different kids with books that make a difference to each and every one of them.

Tim Federle talks about how librarians are fierce champions of the First Amendment. Better Nate than Ever, one of my favorite novels of the last few years, tells the story of a kid who loves, loves, loves Broadway shows and takes a daring overnight trip to New York to audition for a Broadway musical. Tim won both a Stonewall Honor Award (portraying GLBT experience) and the Odyssey Honor Award (audiobook) for Nate. Tonight, Tim posted on Twitter this letter he's received from a fan:
Here's a section from the letter:
"It was so amazing to read books where the main character was like me when I was that age. His borderline-obsession with musical theater and his difficulty accepting his feelings was so relatable and to see such a character be front and center in a book easily available to kids is something I'm just so grateful for. It was the first time I'd ever seen myself in book pages, and I just wanted to say thank you very much."
As we celebrate Banned Books Week, I just want to pause for a moment to think about what this young man said. Not only was he able to relate to this story, but it was readily available for kids. That's the thing -- we need to provide these opportunities for our students to discover themselves in our shelves, with books that are available and easy to find.

Take a moment to share with your kids why this is important to you. Make the idea of our freedom to read palpable and concrete for your kids. And next time you see your librarian, tell them that she or he is your favorite superhero: CHAMPION OF FREEDOM.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


  1. Great post! When I'm not working on Kid Lit Navigator, I have a blog called Kid Lit About Politics. Your post makes me eager to get back to that blog and keep on writing about the importance of the freedoms we have in this country.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. I just hopped over to and love your review of The Great Greene Heist. What a terrific perspective you share!

  2. You know, I've read a couple of Captain Underpants books and don't recall what I considered inappropriate language, and I'm VERY conservative that way. Makes me want to look at them again!

    1. I know, right??!!! We had a great talk today with 2nd grade about how they were now old enough to know that the "potty" language in the story is hilarious, but isn't appropriate during a math lesson. They totally get that, and appreciate the way we respect their judgement. Thanks for stopping by!