Jason Tadlock on reviewing school library book challenges

Elkhorn Area School District Superintendent Jason Tadlock considers the scale of handling hundreds of book challenges for K-12 libraries with no publishing rating system comparable to movies or TV.

By Nathan Denzin | Here & Now

April 17, 2024

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Jason Tadlock:
There's just not a lot of good tools and resources there. We had lots of organizations reach out and say, "Hey, we would love to help you on this. We've got book reviews that are available for you to access and look at." Our curriculum director reached out: "Great, here's the 444 books, send us your reviews." And I think we got a list back of 110 or 120 reviews and an apology that, "Oh, we're sorry that these are all the reviews that we have for the 444." And when we looked at the reviews, all the reviews were, were kind of an overview of what's in the book. There's a lack of resources that speak to the explicit nature of books. There's not a consistent rating system that gives you a good picture of what material is within that book. And to give an example, if you look in our library, you would think, well, they've got Young Adults and Adult, well, most of our nonfiction books are rated Adult. It has nothing to do with the nature of what's in the book. It has to do with who is the target audience. And you know, obviously if you, and we looked at this ahead of time, you know, can we give parents an option to say, "I don't want my kid to have access to adult books?" Well then you're taking out, you know, the significant portion of the nonfiction books on physics, books on astronomy, which makes no sense. Cookbooks — most of the cookbooks are rated as adult books for whatever reason. The system is broken and how they identify what level the books are in regards to an explicit nature and age appropriateness of the book. And even the tools and resources that are available for the librarians, which they do utilize and they look at, they're not great in the level of clarity that it provides to them in regards to the age appropriateness of the book. And I've used this example several times, but if I could go to any parent and say, you know, "There's rated G movies, PG, PG-13, rated R, NC-17, XXX," and the general public would have a great idea of what that movie would be like, you know, if they go and watch it. And they know if I'm going to take my kid to a rated R movie, that it's gonna be either heavy profanity, heavy violence, heavy sexual activity. That doesn't exist within the print medium. And I would really encourage the print industry to reconsider that and/or legislators. It exists in video games, it exists in movies, it exists in TV. There's specific rating systems that help gives guidance to parents and to schools. It's lacking within the print material for whatever reason.

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