The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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September 23, 2011

Weekend discussion topic: banned books

(Continued)

JOPLIN, Mo. —

  •   Read the jacket description. The way the book is sold will give a great indicator of what the book is really about.
  •   Look at professional reviews. Rerat said the library’s website has links to professional reviews by established literary critics.

“These reviews will tell you what the book is about, for what age group and a lot of times will clue you in on controversial things,” Rerat said.

She also said reviews on sales sites such as Amazon.com are almost as reliable. Reviews to be aware of are random interviews that come up at the top of a Google search. Many reviewers may have agendas or motives that may not be in line with parents’ views or morals.

Also, maturity level is not the same thing as reading level, Rerat said. A book at a fourth-grade reading level may not be intended for fourth graders.

  • Talk to friends. A parent’s circle of friends will likely share the same view on a number of things. Maybe one of them has experience with a questionable title.
  • Ask librarians. Rerat said she hasn’t read all of the library’s titles, but she has read a lot of them, and talks about books with others. Librarians will be able to give details that help a parent make an informed decision.
  • Tell kids why you don’t want them reading certain books. Rerat said that kids do a great job self-censoring, if they know what parents don’t like.

“True, some know what parents want and read the opposite,” Rerat said. “But if they know your guidelines, and you explain why you feel this way, the kids will take charge, especially the older they get.”

The most ironic thing about the banning or challenging of a book, Rerat said, is that it has the opposite effect. Demand for those titles skyrockets -- when “Part-Time Indian” got banned, Rerat said she couldn’t keep the book on the shelf.

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