Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Florida mothers are at it again.

A couple weeks ago I posted about an effort in Lake County to have warning labels put on YA library books , or force libraries to move "bad" books to their own shelf. (Because you know, an entire YA section just isn't good enough anymore.) This time, a mother decided she'd just keep the books off the shelf all together.

The 4 books in question are The It Girl series (inspired by Gossip Girl). The mom in question flipped through her 13-year-old's selections and "saw numerous curse words and terms such as 'stoned' and 'marijuana,' and a reference to sleeping with a teacher."

(Wait, you mean these books contained all the things I heard about and was surrounded by when I was in high school nearly two decades ago? Surely, those words and issues aren't STILL around. People must have figured out some kids do these things and put a stop to it by now. )

Long story short, Mom hides the books in her closet and refuses to return to them to the library because "If I turn them in, they will be put back into circulation and and they'll be available for more young girls to read."

Oh yes, imagine the horror. Young girls reading. *Gasp* What is the world coming to?

No, no, I'm kidding (kind of). I understand that this mother doesn't think certain topics are appropriate for her kids to read. I GET IT. But, handle it the right way. Racking up an $85 library fine, having your library card revoked, and holding 4 books hostage is not my idea of the right way. (85% of the commenters on OrlandoSentinel.com agree.)

The cool part? When this news reached such a level of wrongtitude that it spread to the masses, guess what happened? People brought copies of those books to the library to replace the ones being held hostage. So many that the library (graciously) had to stop accepting those specific books because they had too many. Win for the library, and for the author's sales. *fist pump*

Not to mention most teens who heard about this hoopla will now be foaming at the mouth to read the series.

The latest is that the books have been returned to the library. The fine has not been waived, but of course the mother feels it should be. In her own words, "It's not like I lost the books or I didn't feel like turning them in."

Does anyone else want to reach through the screen and shake some sense into her?

I'm sure a few of you may not think this woman is in the wrong. These issues are so subjective. You are entitled to your opinion, but as booklovers, authors, etc. I think most of you would agree that she could have handled this in a much better manner.

One Clermont, FL resident (Marvin Jacobs) wrote to the editor and expressed my thoughts and feeling beautifully:
If the classification of "Young Adult" does not fit with (this mother's) belief of the behaviors of young adults, I encourage her to talk with middle and high school teachers who work daily with these "young adults."

When the content of a fiction book includes facts about real life, it opens the door for parents and children to have a discussion and learn from each other.

We, as a society, must stop avoiding difficult conversations with our children.

Perhaps she should attend the play coming to Bob Carr, "Spring Awakening."

Indeed, this play which was written in 1890, deals with many of the same issues in the books discussed — but in a modern,
Tony Award-winning musical.

Bottom line: She and her daughter need to have a conversation — and the media and the rest of us need to step back.
*claps wildly* Go Marvin!

Yes, Mommy Extremist, learn something from this experience: pay your fine, and TALK WITH YOUR CHILDREN. These curse words and taboo subjects don't just exist in books. You can't hide the whole world in your closet and keep your daughter from being exposed to real life.

And the media will never step back, but I understand what Marvin's saying. Heck, it gets me so fired up that I have to post about it on my 'lil ol' blog.

I know you all have something to say, so feel free to comment. Even if you love Mommy Extremist's methods and have your own closet full of hidden "bad" books and hundreds of dollars in library fines, I'd still love to hear from you.

I'm linking to a search results page on OrlandoSentinel.com because there are a bunch of great articles involving this topic. One even mentions why labeling books would raise legal issues. But that's a whole new topic for a different day.
Links to articles


  1. It's one thing to take a book away from your kid when you don't think it is appropriate (although I think having a conversation about it is probably more effective). But when people start becoming book vigilantes and take it upon themselves to enforce their beliefs on others I have a problem with that. Stage a protest? Fine. Petition other people? Whatever. But stealing common property is crossing the line. Grrrrr! - G

  2. Karen - I am again flabbergasted by how a mother cannot accept the fact that her child is exposed to these issues! Why can't we remember what it was like to be a teen once we have children? Where during birth did they swipe you with one of those black stick things from Men In Black?? I worry for children in situations where the parent is afraid to talk about sensitive issues. Marvin said it perfectly and I hope - HOPE- the woman took note (though I am pretty sure she just cut his letter out of every paper in the house so the daughter could not see it....)

    Thanks as usual for a wonderful post!

    Visit My Kingdom Anytime

  3. I'm rolling on the floor in laughter (between jumping up to read this post and then respond), because I exposed my children to "Where Did I Come From?" as soon as they could read (circa age 5). They know matter-of-factly how babies are made and from what orifice they enter the world. Fast forward from age 5 to age 9, when my daughter shows the book (which sits openly on 11-year-old son's shelf) to an 8-year-old friend. This poor boy had NO idea such things could occur and told his father about the disgusting things my daughter showed him. Father and Mother are dear friends who were downstairs at time of son's "exposure".

    Instead of feeling ashamed, I shook my silent fist in applause of my daughter for forcing my friends to talk to their 8-yr-old son who, BTW, has a 14-yr-old sister, so don't tell me he's that clueless.

  4. Omg, this is disgusting! Just freaking talk to your kids! It's all going on anyway, we know it. So be honest with them...sheesh...

  5. Seriously? If you don't want your child to read something, fine. But you are not the rest of the world's parent and have no right to choose what other children can or cannot read. *sigh* People.

  6. As the mom of two young kids, I have to say sheltering them does them no favors. More importantly, be aware of what they're reading and talk to them about it. Really, it's not that hard.

  7. Well said! I wish these parents would wake up and realize trying to keep a child in a bubble doesn't exactly protect them. Eventually the bubble will burst and do far more harm than anything else. I believe in the old stand-by forewarned is forewarned.

    If you treat your child like an intelligent human being (talk to them) and respect them enough to believe they will make the right choices, they usually do. Overprotecting has never succeeded in anything other than smothering a child. (Hugs)Indigo

  8. I'm actually going to take the middle ground on this one. I think a parent has the right to monitor what their kids read. If this mother didn't feel the books were appropriate for her daughter I think she did the right thing by putting them away (granted her daughter may find other access to them).

    BUT... I think it's RIDICULOUS that she should feel like she should hide them from the rest of the teenage population. They did not belong to her! Crazy woman. You can't just hold library books you don't believe should be on a shelf. I think parents should know what their kids are reading and I think it's okay to take things away that aren't age or maturity appropriate, but we can only do that for OUR OWN kids. We can't parent other people's kids.

  9. Um my question is....if the mother didn't approve of the book, how did the teenager get it in the first place? Isn't she watching what her daughter gets before she checks it out?

    I'm going to agree *gasp!* that maybe 13 is a little young for that stuff, but that's why YA is geared towards 14 to 18 yo kids! And although I might make the exception for my daughter, you can bet I'll have read the book before she does.

  10. This woman and all "parents" that act this way, in my opinion, need to get off their high horse and have a freaking conversation with their kids.
    When I was young I wanted an AC/DC album, "Dirty Deeds...", my mum bought it for me not knowing what was on there. I didn't care abuot the words, I just liked the music, come on right, they're a classic band! Well, my sister got hold of it and showed my mum the lyrics written on the inside. My parents took the album away from me, but, they sat me down and told me why they did, actually SPOKE TO ME ABOUT IT! wow, what a novel conept huh?
    After that discussion I rememeber my dad taking me out to the store and told me to pick out any other record I wanted... I was more pi$$ed at my sister than my parents for taking it away, but I appreciated them taking the time to talk to me about it, actually treating me like a somewhat intelligent person.
    Stories like this frustrate me to no end, because no matter what lengths these types of parents go to to "protect" their children, all they typically end up doing is alienating the child and pushing towards what they're trying to keep them away from.
    Also, and history has shown time and time again, people that act this way and vehemently try to ban books or are anti this and that, more often than not are dealing with their own demons...

    One more thing, I wonder, is she just seeing the WORD marijuana, stoned, etc.. is she seeing what context it's used?
    Anti drug campaigns use those words too. Just a thought

  11. p.s.
    LOVE the fact that people bought the books and took them to the library!

  12. I like your solution--talk with your children. You know, I've read some YA books lately that I loved but wouldn't want my teen reading...but there are ways to work this out at home without being a fruitcake! I realize my children will go to school and be surrounded by many things I don't think are appropriate, but we can discuss/make boundaries for what we read for pleasure. And I think a parent can do that without hiding books in a closet.

  13. *sigh*

    My children will probably learn too much, too soon, but if they do it'll be from my wife and I, and preferably not from TV. 'Cause, honestly, TV's more likely to expose children these days to "bad" things than books are, and in full technicolor. If kids are reading about them in books, at least they're READING!

    Geez. Talk to your kids already. I'm tempted to go home right now and have a chat with my son about marijuana. Except he's 4-1/2. It might be a little too soon. Maybe next year....

  14. I think it's every parents responsibility to supervise what their kids are watching, listening to and reading. And no you can't shelter them from everything but if you teach your kids what's right and what's wrong then hopefully you've taught them to make good choices.

    I think harboring books like that mom did, doesn't do any good.

  15. This reminds me of being a 12 year old and wanting to see Moulin Rouge when it came out, and my mother not letting me. A year later, when she did let me see it, I couldn't understand why she didn't want me to see it in the theater. She said she didn't want me to find out what a prostitute was, to which I replied that I had already known what a prostitute was, and I didn't see the big deal about the movie. Some YA books I think are definitely geared towards kids who are 15+ years old, but 12 and 13 year olds still get their hands on them. But I definitely don't think that's cause for warning labels or for a mother to hide books in a closet.

    Also... if warning labels DO start showing up, I may have to write a dirty, sexual, curse-word-filled YA book JUST because I want a warning label. ;)

  16. There's nothing wrong with the mom parenting her own kid, but what she's doing is wrong on several levels.
    1. She's stealing.
    2. She's being manipulative and controlling.
    3. She's attempting to parent other people's kids.

    I think what she's doing is really wrong, and it's striking a chord esp. since I'm reading Book Thief, which is about Nazi Germany and I think we've all heard how they liked to burn "bad" books.

    Doesn't she realize her kids can read the same stuff in the news? ie. teachers sleeping with teens.

    I'm extremely conservative but I believe strongly in freedom. It's God-given and it needs to be protected or we're going to end up like other countries where you can't criticize anything government-approved without being jailed/fined.

    Way to get me hot under the collar on a Tuesday morning, Karen! *grin*

  17. Last year the hubs and I made a grocery trip to Walmart. When the cashier tried to check my ID for the 6-pack of beer we were purchasing, I told her I didn't have my purse with me, but my husband has his ID. She refused to look at his and refused to sell us the alcohol b/c *I* didn't have my ID. I could have been underage! (I was 28, but a hoodie and Chucks make me look pretty young, I guess.) I made a huge stink about it but she wouldn't back down. We finally had to leave without the beer. I was TICKED.

    My point being -- she felt like she was doing the right thing. She thought that, heaven forbid, my husband would buy the beer and then let me, his underage wife, drink it once we left Walmart. It didn't matter that he was within his legal rights to buy the beer. It was what he *might do with it once he left* that scared her. She was trying to protect people she had no right to protect. Once the customer leaves the premises, they're no longer her concern. But she couldn't accept that.

    Same with this mom. She is fully within her rights to keep the books from her own children, but to keep them from other children is futile. Plus, I agree, it only made more teens want to read those books more than ever.

  18. So often it seems like parents have this idea that ignorance is the same as innocence or protection. As though having knowledge about a "bad" thing somehow taints a young person.

    That mindset is so frustrating to me. I understand that a parent may not want their young teen reading a graphically violent or sexual book (because they disagree with the themes, find it tasteless, want their child reading "better" literature, whatever), but that doesn't change the fact that sex and violence exist and everyone WILL be exposed to such things at some point. Usually sooner than anyone would like. Keeping kids away from those issues completely will not "protect" them.

    For me, it's also about trust. If you don't trust your children to know what's best for themselves and make good decisions, they will pick up on that lack of trust.

    Ha, censorship always gets under my skin :)

  19. A parent has every right to decide what their child may or may not read. THEIR child. This mom has no right to decide what other people's children may or may not read.

    Besides how dumb can you get? As Karen pointed out several times does this lady not realize that bringing this kind of attention to anything: film, novel, album will cause teens to want to read it more? 2 Live Crew anyone?

  20. When I was a YA the only kind of YA I wanted to read had sex and drugs in it. Kids will seek it out regardless of what any parents try to do.

  21. I don't want to echo what everyone else is saying, so I'll briefly agree that this woman is within her rights to restrict them from her own child, but not from the rest of the world.

    Okay, that said, I think 13 is a bit too young for the things in this story (in general, though 13 y-o's vary). And considering the sheer number of books available for teens and tweens, it's not an easy thing to stay on top of what these kids are reading. The people reading this post are heavy readers already, and many are probably writers. So it's easier for us to stay on top of that enormous pile. For non-writers/readers, I'm sure they would appreciate a little help.

    I don't know what that help should be. I don't think warning labels would work at all (just look at what they did for the music industry). Movie theaters don't let in underage kids for PG-13 or R-rated movies, but I'm not sure about video stores. I don't think there is one. But the rating is there, and parents can easily see what their kids are watching. Maybe something similar can be done to help out parents regarding books.

  22. p.s. That would also make it easier for parents to talk to their kids about what's in books with mature content.

  23. I'm afraid we can protect our children only so much from the real world, which is rude, crude and so often ugly. I suppose it's better if they only read about it rather than live it. I don't say, let them read "hard core", try to select together, remebering that forbidden fruit tastes the best...

  24. My mom got into huge trouble with some for letting The Sister and me read Harlequin romances when we were kids -- they were the tender Harlequins, but still, I was barely above double-digits in age.

    We also, as a family (and this is a weird confession), watched Dallas and Falcon Crest. It sparked a whole heap of discussion about what people should and shouldn't do.

    I understand the squeamishness of parents now that I have an 8-year-old Kiddo who is very inquisitive, but I have to remind myself when I'd rather avoid a subject that 12-y-o's are routinely getting pregnant and doing drugs and alcohol.

    I want her to know she can talk to me about ANYTHING. And that I can give her good and honest information about any question she has.

    Maybe that mom should have sat down and read the book with her daughter, to give her perspective. It would have been a whole lot cheaper than $85.

  25. It's all about communication. My mom let me watch all kinds of movies when I was young, but she would talk about proper behavior and how doing things like they did in the movies was wrong. People just don't want to take the time (or are afraid) to interact with their kids and instead blame something in society.

    If she doesn't want her daughter reading those books, that's her perogative, but you can't parent for others. The books need to be out there so that ideas and opinions can be expressed and people can talk and make their own decisions.

    And the title of this post now has me singing that Whitesnake song!

  26. Some people are just crazy. That's all I have to say.

  27. I don't think the Mom handled it the right way, at all.

    And I agree with most of the comments that we can't shelter our kids, and in fact these sorts of books open opportunities for us to talk to our kids about situations they'll be facing in the real world.

    What I would like is some kind of notation (NOT A RATING) on YA and MG books so that as a mom I can tell what kind of issues are in the book (without having to read the whole thing to discover what it might contain). That way if my daughter brings home a book, I can glance at it and tell right away if it's something I'd like to talk to her about before she reads or after she reads it. Otherwise I might be clueless and miss an opportunity to have the conversation.

    Putting books on a different shelf just because they have swear words, sex, drugs, etc. isn't going to help. THat will just attract more kids to the "forbidden" shelf. And maybe listing the content on the back of the front cover will do the same thing. I don't know but I'll be checking back to see any additional comments?

    So commenters (and Karen), what do you think about my idea?

  28. Ugh. The fact that parents try too hard to shelter their kids is EXACTLY why kids grow up confused. I'm not even going to weigh in on this issue. I'll get upset, lol. I will say that I agree with Margo, though. Those are some solid ideas.

    Karen, your posts are getting pretty doggone deep lately. You going philosophical in your latest WIP? =P

  29. If she doesn't want her kids to read the book, that's fine; but she can't decide what books *other people's kids* should and shouldn't read!

  30. I was writing a big long-winded response when I realized I was just reiterating what everyone else has already said. You people are smart! ;)

    I will add this: It would be hilarious if the author of the series in question offered to pay the $85 dollars. It would be the cheapest publicity he/she had ever bought!

    Margo: Your idea has merit. There's a similar system here in Australia on television. The usual program ratings are accompanied by a brief list of the content that warranted that rating. The only problem in implementing your idea would be compliance. There's no governing body that I know of that has that kind of control over publishers. Some kind of ratings/content advisory board would have to be established. Or something. I don't know. I need a cup of tea!

  31. Ugh, I totally agree with you! This is just ridiculous! If she is in such an uproar about it fine, ban the material from her house, however it is a constitutional right to have your own opinions and beliefs, she does not have the right to force those upon others. Sheesh, parents these days think they're kids are angels and all the stuff that goes down on TV or in the news doesn't apply to their child. It's a really sad state of ignorance. Communication people, communication. They should be proactive instead of inactive.

  32. I totally agree with you!!!

    I am glad there is hope and SENSIBLE people out there.

  33. Margo,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

    If you read my other post (the link is in the beginning of this one) about putting labels on books you'll see I completely agree about separate shelves attracting more kids.

    A lot of people weighed in on that topic and MANY good points were made for both sides of the labeling and/or rating system.

    In the recent articles about this FL mom, I read some information why libraries can't label books and rate them like they do movies. I'll be doing another post on that topic. This one was getting way too lengthy.

    Thanks again! And thanks to everyone commenting. I love hearing your feelings and opinions. :)

  34. We are all different people with different ideals and values...which is what makes the world!!!

    Having said that we must keep those ideals and values to ourselves and not force them on others!!!

    Life happens...children/adults handle it better when they have the facts/info...hiding it won't eliminate it!!!
    Honesty and being open with your children will help to prepare them for life experiences!!!

  35. There are definitely books I would not want my daughter reading until she was old enough to handle the information inside. That is definitely where parenting comes in and conversations. If a kid wants a book bad enough, they will find it.

  36. I love that people brought the books back to the library! That's such a great way to be like, "Boo ya! You can't stop us!" Seriously, I feel like mailing some copies of the book there too! Great post and great blog...I just found it today!

  37. I LOVE YA and as a kid I enjoyed it too. Now that I'm a mom of a preteen I cringe at the some of the books after I read them (and enjoy them) there is some YA I'll steer her clear of. Honestly I don't mind the book for me. In fact the librarian actually whispered to me once, "You know these books are from the children's section?" I just laughed. If only she knew how much larger the audience for YA really is.

  38. Thanks for posting this. I'm glad I read it and totally agree with you. That parent has every right to make a judgment call for her own child, NOT for the library or anyone else's kid!! I'm so happy that people donated these books after all that.

  39. Marvin summed it up perfectly. (So did you). The mother is entitled to her own opinion but not to make the descisions for other parents as well. If she would talk to her own child she would know these issues are relevant, she could help her child understand more about the issues so that her child can make better choices in real life. Reading about these issues in books also really helps children. I know this from personal experience (my own).

    Thank you for posting this.

    PS. MAN the people in Florida are extreme...

  40. Go Marvin is right! I think he said it all.

  41. Oh dear. I've heard of several extremists of this sort, but I've never heard of one hiding state books in the closet!

  42. Ahhhh! Just Ahhhhh!

    Yes. I want to shake her!

  43. Wow. That boggles my mind. You know, there are things that I don't think my children are ready for, but I would never presume that other parents have the same sort of parenting style as me. And, really, holding a library book hostage? For real? That's just nuts. There are better ways to take a stand. But if she'd been doing a better job monitoring her children, then perhaps she would have seen the books they were checking out before they checked them out. There are very few books my daughter has read that I haven't read first (although, okay, that's in part because I'm greedy and I have to read them first, but it has the added side benefit of knowing what my child's brain is consuming).

  44. Wow everyone else wrote novels but I only planned on saying one thing "BRING ON THE BAD BOOKS!" I think that says it all!

  45. I'm giving this post 10 fist pumps. lol Parents like this is no naive. Do they not remember that when they were that age, these were the exact same things they were faced with? Pretending these things do not exist does not promote innocence in today's youth. In my opinion it fuels the fire of a young teenagers natural instinct at rebellion. But that's just my two cents.

  46. I love this post to pieces. I think that parents should educate their children and have discussions with them, and then let their children make their own choices. If I read a book or watch a movie with something I don't agree with, I close it or turn it off. It's what I teach my kids to do too.

  47. There's a lot of great comments here. And I'm glad you brought more awareness to censoring of books. Bottom line for me is that teens are at a tender age and require connections. Teens reading teen stories that deal with the same issues they are faced daily, can create a hope, and courage to face adversity in their real lives.

  48. I'm late on this and didn't read all the comments. I think that any parent is entitled to withdraw certain media from their childrens' viewing/reading (withdrawing along with a conversation WHY they are withdrawing). And I think that this lady's intentions were good, but extreme and not correct. If she was concerned about the books that teenageers at large read, there is a better way of advocating that platform. For instance, maybe choosing books that she believes are appropriate and donating them to the library?


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