This week I had every intention of writing a blog about the government shut down. That was before I started listening to my son read from his school library book. Conner, who is in the 6th grade, has to have 30 reading counts points by the end of the first quarter. Conner is a farm boy, he’d rather be outside helping his dad work on fences or helping his dad feed the cattle or hogs. It’s a struggle to get him to sit down and read books for the reading counts points. Since the quarter is going to be ending this month and he is behind on his points, I am making him read his books out loud to me so I know he is reading. (He really hates doing this!)
I noticed Monday night he was struggling a little bit with this book. His voice was trailing off and he wasn’t finishing sentences. And sometimes it seemed like he was skipping sentences. I assumed he was trying to rush through the book and I confronted him about it. He told me there were words he couldn’t say so he just skipped over them. I told him he needed to sound the words out and learn how to say them.
So the next time he got to a word he couldn’t say he paused and looked at me. I told him to sound it out and he shook his head ‘no’ at me. This made me MAD! I walked over to him and told him to show me the word. When I saw the word I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a profanity, one he wasn’t allowed to use and he knew it. The light went off in my head and I realized Conner could say the words just fine, he just knew he would be in trouble with me if he cursed. I asked Conner where he got this book and he told me it came from the school library.
I started listening more closely to the story line of the book. It became very obvious to me that this book was too mature for my twelve year old. The book was discussing teen pregnancy, child birth and abandonment. At first I thought Conner had chosen a book intended for students in high school but when I checked the reading level it was right in the 6th grade range. So I decided I was going to read the book myself after he went to bed. The book was only 123 pages so I knew it wouldn’t take long for me to read. Conner was already 70 pages into the book, he was hoping to finish the book the following night so he could take his quiz and get a better book. (He didn’t want to quit reading the book because he knew he was behind in points and he didn’t have time to waste on starting a new book).
After Conner went to bed I read the book but I wasn’t able to fall asleep after I read it. The book was not suitable for a child in middle school. I learned many of the sentences he skipped when reading out loud to me had curse words in them or used the Lord’s name in vain. My son had learned that one of the characters in the book had sex just to “get rid of their virginity.” He also learned that women can hemorrhage after child birth because the book went into a very descriptive paragraph about a girl who was hemorrhaging. I lay awake that night wondering why this book was in the school library and on the approved list of books for reading counts quizzes.
I went online and searched the book and found some great reviews on it. Here is one: “Cameron’s twin Katie calls and tells him he has to go out to the woods by the lake. He’s hesitant, but he goes. When he gets there, he finds an abandoned newborn baby. Good read for reluctant/struggling readers, boys and girls.” If I read that review, I would think this book was ok to have in the school library too. I can see why it was suggested to Conner because he is a reluctant reader. Nothing on the cover of the book indicated this was a book that contained profanity or that went into descriptive details about what happens to your body after child birth.
I decided to talk to the school and see if they were aware of the content of the book. I copied a few of the pages of the book that disturbed me and I showed them to the Superintendent. He was surprised to say the least. He shared my concerns about the maturity level of the book and that it was definitely not appropriate for 6th graders. The book will no longer be available for 6th graders.
I learned once again, you can’t judge a book by its cover. More importantly, I learned I need to be more involved in what my kids are reading. I learned that the approved reading list is probably accurate when it comes to reading level but I may not agree with the reading content. I am sure my school didn’t intend for my son to read a book in which the content was too mature for him but it happened. I’ve found books before on the reading list that lied about farms which used modern technology like my farm does. I didn’t appreciate the lies or the misrepresentation of the facts, especially when impressionable minds are the audience.
For now, I will be reading all of the books my son chooses to read. I want to make sure the books are appropriate for his maturity level. I encourage all parents to read some of the books their kids are reading. I assumed that since the books were coming from school they were safe for my son to read. I assumed wrong. Had my son repeated any of the profanity that he read in the book at school, he would have received a detention or suspension. If he can’t say the words in school, he shouldn’t be reading them either!