Last week, a parent contacted the Galileo Middle School in the West Ada School District after noticing “inappropriate” material in the book, Looking for Alaska, by John Green. The school district reviewed the book and decided to remove it from all of the middle schools… without asking or informing parents. I’m in West Ada, and I did not receive an email or notification about the book being pulled … and I get emails about everything.
This is not your average book. It has won several awards, including the American Library Association Printz Award for young adult fiction. I understand parents who get upset when students are assigned a controversial book. But this book was not part of a class assignment, it was just a school library book.
I’ll be honest, I have not read this book — yet. I know that it references drugs and alcohol and that it deals with mature themes like grief and forgiveness. Maybe some find it inappropriate for younger kids (sixth graders), but it might be a powerful book for older kids (eighth graders). Our middle school kids need to have access to books that are both immature and mature.
School districts leaders should ask for parent feedback before they remove a book from all of the middle schools. They asked for parent feedback in 2014, when they removed Sherman Alexie’s novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Why didn’t they hold a special meeting to discuss Looking for Alaska?
Besides, let’s not rush to pull books from shelves. Let’s lean on the side of letting families decide what’s the best reading materials for their kids.
I plan on getting the book (from the public library) and reading it with my 13-year-old.
Have you read the book? What do you think?