Thursday, September 29, 2005

Freedom to read ?

Have you heard about 'Banned Books Week'? Well, the name may be misleading...... the intention is to raise awareness that Americans should not take for granted the freedom to read.

Historically, many attempt of challenges have been made by people on books and on authors. Things that conflict with or disagree with anyone's belief. The attempt to remove or restrict access to 'objectionable' children/teen materials are often very prominent. Somehow, individuals and groups seems to be setting a much higher standard for children/teen materials.

In the American libraries, librarians are to challenge censorship. Librarians are guardians to the freedom to read. Library Bill of Rights empowered the librarians to be responsible. What is the delicate balance between freedom to read and ensuring our children/teen are not reading 'bad' materials?

Personally, I'd experienced the frustration of censorship which is the result of an individual or a group's point of view - such as pornographic versus artistic; blasphemy versus perception....thus, freedom to read is not a bad thing. On the other hand, from the perspective of a parent or teacher, we know the influence reading materials can have upon the young minds. How then can we practise the freedom to read?

One thing I discovered is the assumption on library materials. Many assume that all materials from the library should be 'safe' for children/teen. We can only start embracing freedom to read when parents or teachers are aware that libraries' responsibility is not to protect readers from 'bad' materials. Their main and professional responsibility is to provide information and enlightenment ; that includes challenging censorship.

It is the responsibility of individual to decide what they want or do not want to read! For children/teen who are not ready to make such decisions, parents can decide on their behalf. However, when a parent disapproves of any book, he/she should only attempt to stop his/her child from reading it; not attempt to restrict or even remove access.

Just like a book can have very different effects on individuals; the take on freedom to read can also spark many different responses. Are you so comfortable without the freedom to read that you wanted censorship? Or are you a frustrated librarian that wonders why you must remove or restrict access to yet another book?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Reading And Play

Attended the Astrid Lindgren celebration at WRL yesterday and was reminded of the relationship between 'reading and play'. Astrid Lindgren, an advocate for a child's right to play. Astrid's believe has been very distinctively portrayed in the character of Pippi Longstocking.

The first speaker Ms ├ůsa Tolgraven has shown us the unique curriculum of the Swedish pre-schools where the right to play, adventure and fantasy are the key words. The second speaker Ms Lwin Moe Moe has emphasized that reading should be fun. Strategies to support early literacy are through activities and drama, allowing children to experience, explore and play.

I remembered learning from 'sound' books when I was a young mother. I was fortunate enough to be able to find as well as to pay for these invaluable resources - press the button and we can sing along and enjoy the words and illustrations at the same time. We also tried singing the rhyme without the help of the recorded tune! taking turns to sing the lines or alternate singing the songs. Both my child and myself had really good time : )

I did some simple fingerplays with my child when she was a baby. When she got older, I decided to expand my 'repertoire'. I bought a 'tape and book' set and started my learning journey. Instead of enjoying the fingerplay with my child, I spent most of my time learning and practising! Learning from tape and books was really frustrating for me : (
After much agony, decided to stick to my existing repertoire and enjoy my child instead : )

Wondering if the library collection should include the 'sound' books for young working mothers. How are the new generation of young mothers coping? Are they spending enough time to read and play with their kids? Do the new generation mothers know anything about fingerplays?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Teen Titles

Should teen titles be classified as a children's books rather than adult books? This has always been an issue for discussion. Does a teenager consider himself an adult? There's no definite answer but booksellers have found that teen readers who are 13 to 14 years of age are quite happy to browse through the teen shelves in the Children Section. Teenagers who are 15 or older will be most embarrassed to be 'caught' in the Children Section!

What is considered a good read for teenagers? It is often difficult to "pigeonhole" what makes a good read cos' teenagers have very broad tastes. From the 'little survey' I did with my nephews and nieces and my friends' nephews and nieces who are teenagers, their interest ranges from Dan Brown to Gossip Girls, fantasy to realistic fiction, fiction to non-fiction and horrifying discoveries that some typical Singapore teenagers read only 'exam worthy' books !!

Teen titles are often classified based on the age of the protagonist and the subject matter. Very often, the protaganist must be one that a teen can relate to i.e. a teenager. The subject matter must be seen as relevant to a teenager. Issues and angst common to teens. Fantasy fictions that cater to their imaginative minds. Teens are maturing so fast nowadays that the simple assumption described above are often irrelevant. Thus, many writers of teen books are putting in contents that crossover to the adult world.

Recently, some teen books are beginning to appeal to adult readers. These "crossover" books are currently rare and few in the market. Some crossover titles are Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now (Puffin), Jennifer Donnelly's A Gathering Light (Bloomsbury) and Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night (Doubleday).

According to Becky Stradwick, children buyer for Borders UK, on possible crossover titles that are on the way, "Books such as Elsewhere, Tamar and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas all deal with complex adult themes and deserves to reach a wider audience." (Stradwick, Becky. "Action for the autumn." The Bookseller August 2005: 28.)

Elsewhere (Hardcover)by Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (September, 2005)
ISBN: 0374320918

Tamar by Mal Peet
Publisher: Walker Books, Limited (October 2005)
ISBN: 0-7445-6570-7

Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas by John Boyne
Publisher: Random House Children's Books (February 2006)
ISBN: 0-385-60940-X