The Delaware school district that eliminated an entire summer reading list in July amidst confusion over how to handle a challenge to one book is now considering adding a month-long review period for parents or others to bring up any concerns about books on future lists.
For the first time this year, incoming freshman at Cape Henlopen High School were asked to select one or two books from a set list for their summer reading assignments, rather than choosing books on their own as they had done in the past. The options mirrored the teen books found on the 2014 and 2015 Blue Hen Book Award list, a readers’ choice competition sponsored by the Delaware Library Association. But the summer reading list soon hit a snag when school board members voted to remove one of the 10 books, The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth, without following their own policy on book challenges. Board members claimed they found the book inappropriate only because of profanity and references to sexual activity, but advocates nationwide suspected that the main character’s sexual orientation also influenced their decision.
When it was pointed out that several other books on the list with heterosexual protagonists also contained profanity and sex, the board doubled down by eliminating the entire list and continuing to claim that there was no policy for dealing with challenges to summer reading books despite all evidence to the contrary. Now some members aim to address that supposed lacuna by designating April 15-May 15 as a summer reading list “review period” during which the books could be challenged–even though the existing challenge policy already says that challenges can be lodged at any time.
At a meeting on October 9, board members also suggested selection criteria for books on reading lists, including “reputation, quality and age appropriateness.” But again, this would duplicate standards that teachers and librarians already used when selecting this year’s list–including Cameron Post, which received glowing reviews from sources including School Library Journal and Booklist, where it was recommended for grades 9-12. The board plans to further discuss these unnecessary proposals at its next meeting on November 13.
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.