Why We Oppose Rating or “Red-Flagging” Books

Joan E. Bertin, Executive Director 19 Fulton Street, Suite 407 New York, NY 10038 tel: (212 807!"222 e#ail: n$a$%n$a$.or& we': www.n$a$.or&

In an effort to avoid book controversies, some school districts have undertaken efforts to rate books, or to “red-flag” those that have been challenged in other schools. While we applaud the desire to inform parents about the books their children are reading and why they were selected, information provided to parents should explain the educational value of the book. mphasi!ing the “mature” content in particular books or rating books by letters or numbers will not provide meaningful information and is likely to instigate more challenges and more controversy. "ists that segregate books with certain types of content necessarily give a biased perspective, casting a negative light on listed books regardless of their literary worth, and stoking alarm over their content. It would emphasi!e the views of the tiny minority of people who ob#ected to a book$often for random, personal, or ideological reasons $rather than the thousands who have read, taught, en#oyed and experienced growth from the book. %ore importantly, it inescapably privileges the concerns of would-be censors over the professional #udgment of educators who review the books and teachers and librarians who select them. &or are book rating systems that classify books based on the presence of certain content 'e.g., sex, violence, profanity( any more informative about the literary and educational value of a book. "iterature is more than the sum of its parts, and ratings often misleadingly reduce complex literary works to a few isolated elements ) those that some individuals may find ob#ectionable ) rather than viewing the work as a whole. Instead of giving books a scarlet letter, school boards should encourage teachers to explain to parents how and why they select certain materials and what educational purposes these materials serve for their children. *ocusing on the educational criteria for curricular selections would provide a meaningful, sound and defensible way to evaluate books.

NCAC’s Youth Free Expression Project counters the growing hysteria around young people’s access to culture to send the message that excessive attempts to control and restrict what kids read create watch and play are counterproductive and to support policies that emphasi!e educating young people as to how to "e literate participants in contemporary culture#