Blogger Intellectual Freedom Committee

Talking to Kids & Parents about Intellectual Freedoms

Photograph of several challenged children's books with explanatory notes such as "Junie B Jones challenged for her mouthiness and bad spelling" and "Captain Underpants challenged more often that Fifty Shades of Grey."

Atrribution: RodLibrary@Uni https://www.flickr.com/photos/unirodlibrary/30209015226/in/photostream/

What librarian hasn’t had an uncomfortable conversation with a parent concerned about the materials their children have been reading or viewing? The ALSC Intellectual Freedom committee has been busy revising documents to help you talk with kids and parents about the intellectual rights of children as the situation arises. (And if it hasn’t yet, don’t worry…it will.) Remember, educating rather than censuring can create partnerships with parents and schools to combat censorship geared towards children.

When talking with children, keep things simple. Start with the basics:

  • Intellectual Freedom is your freedom to learn and think anytime and anyplace.
  • The First Amendment of the US Bill of Rights protects that freedom.
  • Libraries protect your freedom by helping you find the information you want and they will respect your privacy as much as possible.
  • One adult or group of adults may believe that a certain book or other media shouldn’t be available to you.  If you feel your Intellectual Freedom rights are being violated, you have a right to protest.

Talking about the intellectual freedom of children with parents can be a little more difficult. Remember these important things:

  • Intellectual Freedom is the protection of the rights to read, to listen, to write, and to speak beliefs and opinions. Children also have these rights.
  • Defense of a child’s right to Intellectual Freedom is never meant to supplant or override a parent’s wishes, but rather as a tool for all parents and caregivers to help their children grow and succeed.
  • By protecting a child’s right to read widely, you help create thoughtful readers and responsible future citizens who are ready to think critically.

And, perhaps, most importantly:

  • A parent or caregiver always has the first and most important say in how their child interacts with the world around them. It is completely appropriate for a parent or caregiver to work with schools and libraries to ensure this, with the important caveat that the Intellectual Freedom of other children and families isn’t infringed. Similarly, it is also appropriate to speak out against policies or actions that potentially jeopardize your child’s Intellectual Freedom.

How have you educated children and adults about intellectual freedom?

Mariah Manley is a children’s librarian at the Salt Lake City Public Library. She has been a member of the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee since October 2016. Contact her at mmanley@slcpl.org

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