Part II. The Quiet Culling of Children’s Classics: Are Public School Librarians the Real “Book Banners”?

Asking questions, listening to my kids, and trusting my instincts: this was how I discovered what was going on in libraries.

In 2017 my children were coming home with very poor quality literature. They could read one of these “books” in 20 minutes. Our books at home took hours for them to read; something didn’t seem right with these library books. The book covers looked cartoonish and commercialized. I flipped through them and discovered many modeled detrimental behavior such as how-tos on bullying, crude humor, disrespect toward adults and the elderly, and socially unacceptable behavior and language.

I asked my children to select more enriching books and guided them on what to seek. They came home empty handed, time and time again. They reiterated only a few books were available, but they’d already read them. So in 2017 I researched library holdings from several of our district’s elementary school libraries; it was VERY concerning.

Recently, I performed a more extensive search of library holdings at one library from the 2017 analysis. The search was expanded to 102 classics and well-regarded children’s authors. Many of these authors are on Mensa reading lists, NIH reading lists, and an author list published by Dr. Sandra Stotsky.

The selected elementary school is an A rated elementary school in Hillsborough County Public Schools, FL with over 800 students in 2022-23. What I found, or rather didn’t find, in this library is alarming.

Children’s classics seem to have been disappeared from this school library serving over 800 students. Today, there are six fewer book titles in this library from the list of 35 authors selected in 2017.

From the expanded selection of 102 authors, there were only 151 books in the library. 53% of these authors had ZERO books in this library. 91% of these authors had three or fewer books in this library. (See pie chart below.) Keep in mind some of these 102 authors wrote dozens of children’s books and many wrote more than a few.

The 102 authors are represented by an average of only 1.48 books per author. If the top 5 authors (contemporary authors) were removed, this average falls to 0.87 books per author.

On the other hand, there are 194 books in this school library from just five popular, contemporary authors that include titles like Captain Underpants, Dog Man, and Dork Diaries. (See bar graph below). The Captain Underpants series is frequently found on “banned book” lists, yet there are plenty of these books in this library. These five authors average 39 books per author and represent 1.96% of the library holdings (9,896 books). Five authors represent a larger percentage of this library’s holdings than 102 highly-respected authors.

Who is really disappearing books, our history, and our common cultural heritage? This is The Quiet Culling of Children’s Classics.

This entry was posted in Hillsborough Schools, Kids Books, Public Schools, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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