Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars (And Other Books That Got Cut!)

I might get bashed for this, and maybe I should, but I am on the fence as to whether The Fault in Our Stars by John Green was the incredible read it was made out to be. Now, I'm not saying that it wasn't a good read, but it certainly will not end up on my classroom bookshelf. Why? LANGUAGE!!! I am not naive enough to believe that my students have never heard cursing, and I am also not naive enough to believe that they don't let a few (or several) slip now and then. I honestly have no problem with a word drop here or there (Shiloh, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson), and some books (like Maniac Magee and To Kill A Mockingbird) even have racial slurs that are meant to show just how demeaning the English language can be.

No, my problem with this book was that I am meant to believe that the main characters are two very intelligent teenagers, who have such a propensity for language that I even had to look up a word or two, yet resort to cursing (and I'm not talking about h*** or d***) when they are frustrated. I'm sorry, but this doesn't make any sense to me. I also have an issue with being a teacher of vocabulary and placing books on the shelf that use the same four-letter words REPEATEDLY. What am I teaching my students if I put this book in my classroom???

I rarely take books off my shelf, but lately, I've been doing so more and more. What's made the cut? The Mortal Instruments, The Fault in Our Stars, Pretty Little Liars, Witch and Wizard and Legend.
I have read all these books. With the exception of PLL, they are all decent, and most are excellent reads..for me. I'm 29. I teach 5th grade now, so Legend was pulled only for that reason. I wasn't sure if the graphic depiction of a bullet to the head would fly with parents, or my new principal! WW and TMI were pulled because of the utter sexual fascination the main characters have with each other and the demonic/sorcery elements. I can't explain why W&W was different than HP for me, it just was, and I go with my gut! Why was PLL pulled? Complete and total filth. For real. I need some meat to my literature y'all. TFIOS was pulled only for the language. It was otherwise a good book. It made me laugh, then cry, then laugh some more, then question my sanity for ever beginning to read it in the first place.

Before I end this post, I would like to repeat that I read these books. I'm not making fly-by judgements. I honestly really like TMI, TFIOS (apart from the language!!!!) and Legend, and I am on pins and needles to get the next book in the TMI series. In all honestly, I believe that kids need to make their own choices in life, and I know literature is a great way to guide them and teach them about worlds different from their own. Kids who read more have larger vocabulary, make higher scores on standardized testing, and have greater imaginations. They also are never lonely because a book is a friend! I do not want you to read this post and assume that I am out to get books. I assure you, that is the last thing I want to do. I just want you, whether you are a parent or a teacher, to read what you're putting on your shelf. Decide if it feels right to you. If you think it's okay, but you aren't sure, make a section in your classroom library that requires teacher AND parent permission to check out a book. Let parents know what is on your shelf, and let them know what's in the book you are questioning. I've done it before, and the parents are always appreciative.

I know some will read this and say that my fascination with Harry Potter or Percy Jackson tells students that I am a believer in witchcraft or polytheism. They'll say that having a Muslim version of Cinderella promotes a belief in Allah, or that books about cooking and cleaning tell girls that they have no other options that being a homemaker. If that is your opinion, it's perfectly fine. I am allowed to have mine too, right?

Have you ever had to pull a book from your shelf? What was it? Why was it pulled?

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