Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Let's talk about labels

I literally mean labels...on books.  It might seem like a librarian issue, but it can have an impact on a student's freedom to read. I was inspired to write about this after participating in a Twitter conversation on best practices for teachers with the hashtag #bproots and led by educators, Donalyn Miller @donalynbooks and Teri Lesesne @ProfessorNana

I'll start by criticizing myself.  Yes, we still have AR labels on many of our books, although we no longer use the program.  Why? Guess what happens when you peel these labels off?  You're left with a sticky mess. Any advice on how to deal with this would be helpful. I need to start the process of removing these labels.

At least the label from the book from my library could be removed.  Not the case here:

What's wrong with these labels? Book levels and age recommendations are readily available online for teachers, librarians and parents who need that information.  When we slap a label on a book, kids feel pressure (at least indirectly) to only read books recommended for their age level or reading level.  Also, if you read below grade level, who wants to carry around a book that announces that?

I checked out this book yesterday:

We live in NC, and I have two words to describe the mindset here: red state.  However, I must give major props to my public library for having this book available.  I wouldn't mind reading this book in public and would welcome questions about it, but what about a teen who is unsure of their sexuality?  This book could change their life, but maybe they are afraid to be seen reading it, or to even check it out.  

I think we should let books stand on their own.  A big topic of discussion from #bproots was trusting students in regards to reading.  We need to trust students to choose books without relying on labels.  Too often, kids are restricted when making their own reading choices, and these restrictions contribute to a culture of nonreaders.  Labels provide restrictions. Librarians are champions of reading and I do not believe anyone means labels to be harmful, but maybe we should rethink our use of them.

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