Pop Quiz: This Book has been Rated NC-17
Happy Friday, Pop Quizzers! Let’s talk about sex and violence and monsters!
Our school library is one of my favourite places to be during my working day. It’s packed to the gills with all sorts of wonderful fiction and non-fiction books and it’s surprisingly well used by the pupils. In fact, my Friday timetable takes me there three times in a row. It’s bliss.
There’s one feature of the library, however, that always seems to cause consternation amongst pupils. The fiction books are split into two sections: “teenage” and “young adult”. One of the library’s rules states that only pupils aged 16 and over can take books from the “young adult” section. The librarian is quite strict about the implementation of this rule.
The “young adult” section mostly contains books that are definitely aimed at adults. The texts that our seniors need for various high-level tasks are in there. There are plenty of pretty sophisticated texts that very few younger pupils would ever look at. There are also, however, several far more popular texts that have been placed there due to their specific content. The entire Twilight series is in there. The Hunger Games is in there. These books are there because they’ve been deemed “too violent” or “too grown up” for younger pupils. Pupils under 16 are allowed to take books out of this section, but only if they bring a letter from home first.
As an English teacher, I want to encourage all my pupils to read as much as they possibly can. Some young people can be extremely reluctant to read and if I can get a book, any book, in front of them for long enough to catch their interest then I feel like I’ve won. The problem I have with our library’s current arrangement is that younger pupils will often take books from the “wrong” area (especially if they’ve recently been made into flashy big-budget movies), only to be told that they’re not allowed to read them. I hate, absolutely hate, having to tell a young person that they’re not allowed to read the book they’ve chosen. If someone’s been to see Twilight and has decided that they actually want to read a book for the first time in their life, I do not want to be the one who tells them that they can’t.
Books don’t have age limits. This is a barrier that has been imposed by the school itself. Of course I understand that some books truly do have content that is inappropriate for young people, but I am really uneasy about simply locking away their access in such a sweeping fashion. Maybe I’m being idealistic, but I can’t reconcile my role as a promoter of literacy with a rule that prevents young people from accessing the books they want to read.
Does your school or educational establishment have any rules regarding student access to fiction? Do you have age limits of cut-off points like our library?
If you use fiction in the classroom, do you ever use books that contain adult themes? If so, how do you deal with them?
Do you think that certain books should have age limits attached? Or even just advised?
The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons (ET).
Featured Image Credit: Wikipedia