Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Banned Book Week, The Family Book

Three years ago, when I started working in the library at school, Jack delighted in calling me Tipper. Digging through books that had not been touched in 8 years, I tossed plenty that were out of date, out of touch and some, yes, that were inappropriate. Books on the hallucinogenic properties of mushrooms, written in 1974, did not fit in our growing elementary school library. The pictures scared me, the content was, at best, disturbing, and quite out of date.

It seems I am not the only Tipper in Illinois. Erie, on the far west border of the state, has decided that Todd Parr's The Family Book is not suitable for their grade school library. The happy text and bright colors, the beautiful messages found in all his books, are just not what the good people of Erie are looking for in their book collection. Todd Parr, it seems, is promoting the gay agenda by including these words in his book: some families have two moms or two dads.

Parents in Erie were perhaps concerned that exposing children to all kinds of family was not something that should happen at the grade school level, at least not in Erie. Which is then to assume that every family in Erie consists of two married heterosexuals, and a couple of children. There must not be any single parents or families with step parents and clearly there are no children living with grandparents. Maybe that is the case, I don't know, I've never been there.

And even though I've never been there, it doesn't mean I'm not curious about what I might find. Even if every family in Erie confirms to the rigor believed to be acceptable by the school board, families in the rest of the world do not. Someday children in Erie might leave, and come to Chicago, or further, having only known the strict definition of acceptable established in their hometown. 

Giving children the opportunity to see the world in every way teaches them understanding and compassion. And showing them diversity without labels takes away the different factor. The term gay is not used in our home, no more than we refer to ourselves as straight. The Family Book introduces the idea of two dads, or two moms, without assigning a name, without drawing attention to this idea being outside of what is considered normal. It's not the only one; We All Sing With the Same Voice, a beautiful song, now book, from Sesame Street, includes: "I have sisters one, two, three. In my family there's just me. I've got one daddy I've got two". And one of my favorite books, Everywhere Babies, includes in it's illustrations pictures of same sex parents right along with those of mixed sex parents, with no distinction or attention directed at either.

Making broccoli part of the meal, rather than a  weird looking side dish that they are forced to eat, helps children develop a taste for broccoli at a young age. We don't say "eat your vegetables", we say "eat your dinner". And liking broccoli does not mean you are going to grow up to be a vegetarian.

Wonderful Books

We All Sing With the Same Voice, J. Philip Miller, Sheppard M. Greene, Paul Meisel
Everywhere Babies, Susan Meyers and Marla Frazee
The Family Book, Todd Parr
Two Eggs, Please, Sarah Weeks and Betsy Lewin

In honor of Banned Book Week, re-posted from June 2012. 

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