I entered an exclusive club recently... A friend, who’s a teacher, had been very excited at the prospect of my first novel coming out and immediately suggested I did an author visit at her school.
In November, I got an email from her telling me how much she’d loved reading my book... but that in fact she and the head of English didn’t feel it had ‘appropriate content to promote to our students.’
Her reasons were that the issues touched upon - single parent families in inner city London, a little on teen pregnancy, drug abuse (but these aren’t the main themes of the story, which is more about forgiveness and belonging) were beyond the realms of the experience of their students at this small independent school.
So, what to make of it?
Recently I’ve seen some slightly Shocked and Appalled responses to such instances - cries of book banning and the stifling of pupils. But I just wanted to give a shout out in defense of teachers and librarians who have to make this call.
Saying an author’s book might not be right for the demographic of students represented at a particular school is not the same as banning that book.
Teachers have a responsibility of care for all their students, and while some might be ready to discuss certain issues or explore realities beyond their own experience, maybe some are not. Isn’t this the very reason teen fiction isn’t put into age categories? So whilst I've been to some schools where the librarians have got Year 7s reading my novel, I've been to others where I've met with the Sixth Form.
Is discussing issues raised in a book the same as 'promoting' its content? Are teachers too conservative?
What do you think?