Kids Talk Back: The Book Police

Last week, author Kate Messner wrote about being disinvited to a school talk in Vermont because the content of her book THE SEVENTH WISH — a story dealing with the impacts of drug addiction on a family — was deemed too difficult to discuss with the students.

In an update on her blog, Messner reports getting an email from a school librarian who canceled the school’s orders for THE SEVENTH WISH because she didn’t think fourth and fifth graders should have to read about drug addiction — wishful thinking in an area where six governors have united to battle rampant opioid addiction.

Many of us at The Winged Pen have school-aged children…and we’ve all been school-aged children.  As much as we’d like to protect kids from the horrors of life, the truth is that across all walks of life, very young kids are facing the tough stuff: drug addictions in families, abuse, anorexia, mental illness, depression/suicide, and more.

booksReading fiction is a great way of processing new and troubling situations before you reach them. It helps kids learn how to respond to those situations when they do come up in their lives. And it shows hurting and lonely kids that they are not alone.

Because this is an issue that has a direct impact on our kids, we thought we’d turn it over to them. Here are some of our favorite kids and their thoughts on why it’s important to read and celebrate books that address tough subjects in a thoughtful way.

Eliza: Books like this one are important because a lot of people deal with drug addictions. When I read books like that, even though I haven’t experienced some of these problems personally, I feel like I can understand what people who have experienced them are going through. I don’t think schools should have the right to police what kids are reading.

Jaiden: The Seventh Wish and other books like it are necessary because drug addiction is a big problem that many people deal with. My high-school nieghbor died of a drug overdose a couple weeks ago and some of my family members have drug addiction problems. If they had  the chance to read books like Kate Messner’s, then perhaps they would be aware of how it hurts family members and ruins their own lives. Children, especially fourth grade and up, are not so puerile that they are incapable of reading books about drug usage and they are smart enough to not read the book if it makes them uncomfortable. (Click here to read an open letter Jaiden wrote to the Vermont elementary school that disinvited Kate Messner)

Sienna: Some kids are probably going through tough problems like what these kind of books talk about and kids need to learn why drugs are bad.

Anna: In school, we hear a lot about the danger of drugs, but nobody teaches you what to do if someone you care about has a drug problem. Kids who may be dealing with drug addiction in their family deserve to feel less alone. With a book like Kate’s, it might help them feel like others understand them. It is important for books about real problems to be in elementary school libraries because real kids deal with real problems like this everyday.

Sylvia: I feel that it is important for children of any age to be aware of the dangers of drug abuse as they may encounter it or even know someone who has. Also if a child has encountered a problem involving drug abuse it is important for them to know that someone else is going through something similar and they are able to relate to it. It is important for young children to have access to books on all subject matters.

A special thanks to the kids for sharing their thoughts on this important subject. For an update on Kate Messner’s cancelled school visit, check here.

rm-picRICHELLE MORGAN writes, works, plays and drinks too much coffee in Portland, Oregon, often in the company of her husband and their three spirited children, mischievous beagle and long-suffering cat. When not writing fiction for young adults and children, she pens fundraising letters and other marketing copy for progressive nonprofit organizations. Richelle keeps an occasional blog about nonprofit marketing and communication. She has also written feature articles for The Oregonian, and her short fiction has appeared in Voicecatcher. You can find her on Twitter.