The decision by a pair of Loudoun County Public Schools committees to recommend this week that two novels at the heart of a recent controversy should remain available to LCPS students is one we applaud and hope is endorsed by the School Board, should the issue be appealed further.
“Monday’s Not Coming” by Tiffany D. Jackson, and “#MurderTrending” by Gretchen McNeil became target of acerbic scorn by a group of parents objecting to passages books due to sexual and violent passages.
There is a long history of books being banned from schools — so much so that the American Library Association publishes an annual list of the top 10 challenged books list. Neither “Monday’s Not Coming” or “#MurderTrending” occupy the list.
Much, if not most, of the most impactful literature throughout history involves flawed characters. Protagonists that occupy moral gray areas, who learn from their own mistakes and grow as a result are the type of memorable characters that make the narrative arcs possible.
No one book will enthrall every single reader. Offering a diverse collection of texts to nascent readers is vital to helping them fall in love with the written word.
It’s safe to say that an outsize portion of high school-age teens today have unbridled access to Netflix and streaming services of the like — and along with them, movies and shows featuring far more sexual and graphic violence than can be found in either of the two novels at issue.
Most parents of high-school age students are old enough to not have even had a cellphone with broadband internet access when they were in high school, let alone the ability to stream entire catalogs of videos from almost anywhere.
We bring this up because this generation has more digital media to lure them away from reading than we ever had.
Offering literature that teens actually want to read is the only hope we have of sparking a love for reading and then kindling it to a blaze.
Some teens want to read about wizards; others, relationships. Some will be enticed by stories about war. Or social strife. Yet others will only be drawn in by writing that explores the awkwardness of being a teen.
Whether we as parents are taken aback or made to blush by a passage in a book meant for our child is beside the point. The complex themes found in some of young adult novels beg for context and discussion.
It’s a teacher’s job to help a student understand the sometimes-nuanced life lessons woven throughout the literature that is either assigned or made available to them.
Tiffany D. Jackson, the author of “Monday’s not Coming,” shared her thoughts on why writing about uncomfortable themes — even in young adult books such as hers — is important in a 2017 interview.
“I believe in showing the complexity of the story,” Jackson told Salon. “We can’t sugarcoat in our books. I prefer to give kids the real deal— that there’s bias in the juvenile justice system and that a lot of things don’t work out but that some people aren’t all good.”
Classrooms are the last place from which literature such as Jackson’s should be banned.