Gays, Kids Books and Why You Can't Take 'em Off the Shelves

uncle-bobbys-weddingThe book contained “pro-gay” messages, so why does one librarian in Colorado remind a questioning patron the book very much belongs in the children’s section?

Because children’s books aren’t about children’s topics.

In a measured and balanced response to a patron’s demands that Uncle Bobby’s Wedding be cast off the shelves of the Douglas County Libraries, a librarian offers a look beyond the issues of any particular book and any adult’s particular viewpoint.

Says Jamie LaRue on his “lil blog:” I think a lot of adults imagine that what defines a children’s book is the subject. But that’s not the case. Children’s books deal with anything and everything. There are children’s books about death (even suicide), adult alcoholism, family violence, and more. Even the most common fairy tales have their grim side: the father and stepmother of Hansel and Gretel, facing hunger and poverty, take the children into the woods, and abandon them to die! Little Red Riding Hood (in the original version, anyhow) was eaten by the wolf along with granny.

Indeed, what do we think when our children face an obstacle we ourselves can’t explain away? Is there, maybe . . . hopefully . . . a book for that?

We buy our children books on being a big brother, on sex, on bullies. They’re made to expand our children’s minds, but also to offer an alternate viewpoint from our own. And for those of you out there who would disagree with gay marriage, that means offering them a look at the mere fact that it’s out there.

Or, as LaRue points out, offering OTHER families that same option.

For there are gay families in Douglas County, he says. Heck, there are gay families everywhere, folks who pay taxes toward libraries and want to likewise see books on the shelves that their kids can read, books about their own lives, that answer the questions of “will my uncle Bobby still love me if he’s married?”

There are straight, homophobic families who pay taxes too, I’ll grant you. And here’s where it’s up to them to simply act like parents.

From LaRue: It seems to me as a father who has done a lot of reading to his kids over the years that that kind of decision is up to the parents, not the library. Because here’s the truth of the matter: not every parent has the same value system.

So what do you do? You walk into the library with your child. You help them pick out books. You help them check out books. You help them read books. And if a book is objectionable, you place it back on the shelf and say “not today, son” or “let’s read this and let me explain WHY this isn’t how our family works.”

As we stare Banned Books Week in the face, LaRue’s letter to an anonymous patron deserves to be placed in libraries across the country simply as food for thought.

Should libraries just be for “your” kid? Should they serve only “your” ideals? Should libraries be responsible for what your kids read?

Read LaRue’s entire missive here, and pass it along.

Image: Amazon

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