This week in the ComicMix’s Challenged Reading Challenge, the Tweeks took on Matthew Loux’s SideScrollers, the book that led the Enfield, Connecticut, Board of Education to change their entire policy for approving and including controversial books in school reading lists.
In 2012, Mathew Loux’s video game themed graphic novel was removed from a ninth grade optional summer reading list in Enfield after a parent issued formal complaint about profanity and sexual references in the book. Chosen as one of the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Great Graphic Novels for Teen in 2008 and praised by Publisher’s Weekly as a book that is “wholesome… but still entertaining for young teens or those with a sense of humor,” the removal of the book from the summer reading list came as a shock. “It’s a summer reading list,” said the Tweeks. “Can’t the mom just not have her kid read the book? It’s optional. That’s the whole point of an optional summer reading list. You don’t have to read it. You can just pick the book up, not like it, put it down and walk away.”
CBLDF and other advocacy groups questioned whether the Board of Education had followed their own policies for handling challenged materials, which requires that books be evaluated by a committee before being pulled. Per the policy: “No parent nor group of parents has the right to negate the use of educational resources for students other than his/her own child.” Moreover, if a book is challenged it is required that the case be handled by a review committee whose duties include, “evaluating the resource for its strength, weakness, and value as a whole and not in part; the impact of the entire work being more important than the words, phrases, or incidents out of which it is made.”
Although efforts to convince the Superintendent to rescind the decision were made, the book was not reinstated to the optional summer reading list, effectively allowing one parent to take away all students’ right to read. This is a sad instance where a great book was pulled for content that is in most young adult fiction and non-fiction books. As the Tweek’s remind us in their discussion about SideScrollers, when it comes to issues about books in school’s or if you have a situation where you don’t want your child to read a particular book, at the end of the day, “please be respectful of other readers.”
And for educators and librarians, below is a quick list of several of the resources that CBLDF provides should you need to defend your students and patrons’ right to read if this book is challenged in your community:
- Case Study: SideScrollers
- Using Graphic Novels in Education: SideScrollers
- CBLDF Discussion Guide: SideScrollers
- CBLDF Banned Books Week Handbook!
- Raising a Reader! How Comics and Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love to Read!