Sunday. A day to contemplate CYA literature controversy

Nothing says happy Sunday like reading module notes about controversies that surround some CYA literature and attempting to navigate not only the reading and module activities but also my feelings and opinions on the topics.

You see where are on the home stretch of the children’s literature paper so once i have managed to get the study bit done I can tackle my final assignment for this paper. And man alive I am looking forward to getting it done because then I have one more assignment due (for my other research paper) and I am done for the semester. And into the promised land of a good fortnight or so of no study! I will have a weekend like normal people. Well, sort of a weekend. I work weekends so it will really be a Monday and Tuesday with no obligations. Just need to get through the last month.

There is just this minor Complication of two assignments impeding the happy time that involves me reading books out of choice, maybe doing some baking, a bit of PlayStation time and hanging out with my friends and family.

Now back to controversies and issues in CYA literature. We have a couple of things to choose from- violence in books, humour in books (who knew that would be an issue), diversity (or lack of diversity), bibliotherapy, censorship, and crossover fiction. What I need to find is an aspect of one of these topics and write an assignment on it.

Censorship feels like an easy hit I figure. Let’s face it, librarians are anti-censorship. That’s our job right? But the more you dig around both the internet and real life, you discover that libraries are often homes of censorship but in quiet and subtle ways. Sometimes it is through weeding (easily justified, we always need to make space for new books), sometimes it may be through not purchasing a type of book (anyone know why our library doesn’t own any erotica when by all accounts other NZ public libraries have them in their collection), how about just quietly issuing a book you don’t like and accidentally never returning it to the shelf (this has been discussed in a number of would-be anonymous forums and even list-servs that I subscribe to).

In theory of course librarians are anti-censorship but in reality how many libraries are in fact staffed by librarians who have spent time reading and developing a wide understanding of the issue.

How many librarians know the right thing to do and say, but like the rest of us non-professionals, are swayed by their ‘gut’ feelings? I have had conversations with staff who are happy to go through and cull the 200s (religions and beliefs) in the non-fiction because it is all rubbish anyway. And yes, in theory there is a policy and guidelines about how material is selected for weeding but it is designed with a necessary flexibility so that you can make decisions based on your community. If all religion is bunk why do you need a copy of Love wins by Rob Bell? Who needs another Koran when it is rarely issued?

Censorship in the children and young adult section is even more complex. Everyone wants the best material for them but we all have vastly different opinions about what that looks like. Books that irk me don’t fazed others. I personally strongly dislike the popular picture book series by Stephanie Blake including the first one “Poobum”. I think the rabbit is rude and I don’t really think that our early childhood friends need extra encouragement saying poo and bum. Would I remove it from the collection? No. People and kids love it. But I never put it on the face out shelves when I am tidying them. Is this censorship? No, but let’s be honest, I need to be careful that I am not a little enthusiastic about checking the book for ‘condition’ whenever it passes me by.

Other people have antipathy to Captain Underpants (the book series encourages disobedience, vandalism of school property, making fun of authorities figures). Me, I just see it as a series which gets whole bunch of kids reading. The book makes full use of scatological humour to entice kids to read it and I was unbothered when my son was a fan (by this stage he knew enough to know that running around and saying poo etc was not going to go down well with his mother).

And let’s not even start on YA material with it’s drug taking, drinking, violence, abuse, neglect, sexuality, poverty, and (shock horror) bad language (as if the darlings have not heard it all before in their classrooms/homes/streets/youtube videos).

The world that our kids are living in is not the world of Famous Five, spiffing lemonade and Timmy the dog. Having books in the CYA collection that deal with some of the nitty gritty that life throws at us is not going to make rewind the clock to when George, Anne, Julian and Dick (tee hee, the inner child in me is sniggering at Dick as a name) could continue undergoing their life of clear middle-class neglect (they went off to islands by themselves, chased after criminals, George was clearly desperate for some parental affection from her emotionally absent and angry father, honestly lets just call CYFS now and get the ball rolling).

Do I personally like kids getting enamoured in books that make me depressed just reading the back cover? Meh. But I do like the part where hopefully they learn something about themselves and others. I am encouraged by reports that say that kids develop empathy for others from reading.

So, as much as I would like to wrap our wee precious children in cotton wool and allow them access to only uplifting or funny books (Terry Pratchet and Douglas Adams books would be on the top of my list), I can see the value and real need for books like Stars beneath our feet by David Barclay Moore, The hate u give by Angie Thomas and Thirteen reasons why by Jay Asher.

Image result for douglas adams books¬†Technically, this was inspired by “Oh not not again” (a BBC radio show written well after Douglas Adams premature death) as well as the other Hitchikers Guide books but I am a fan of Lego and I do enjoy a pretty picture for the blog so it ended up here. And yay for Flickr and artists such as Iain Heath allowing for the reuse of their works.


As you can tell I don’t probably have enough to say about censorship so maybe I’ll take on something else. Clearly I have a hang up about toilet-based humour so that could be a starting point. But bibliotherapy sounds interesting….. And this team, is how my assignment research gets out of control. I start on one subject and am easily distracted by the something else and before you know it, it’s 10 pm on a Sunday and you haven’t got anything done.

This blog was brought to you by P.

P is for procrastination because..well it is obvious isn’t it?


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