Helping my child choose books and understand them is my job as a mom.
I don’t understand why the books that children read in school are controlled by the Utah legislature. This seems a large and intrusive overshoot. I’m a mom, and deciding what my kids read is my choice, not theirs.
It is not a political question. And it has no place in local, state or national policy arenas.
Let me explain.
A few years ago, a well-meaning family member sent my 8-year-old daughter the book “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. I love books (and this parent). I didn’t think twice when my daughter unwrapped her present and immediately went upstairs to read it.
By bedtime, she was about halfway through. I asked if she liked it, and she said she did.
Then a little alarm went off in my head. I remembered that there was “something controversial” in this book. But I had not read it and I did not remember the problem.
So I took the book and read it.
Actually “The Giver” is the story of a society in which everything seems perfect. There is no war, no hatred, no poverty. Everybody’s equal.
But “The Giver” doesn’t represent a utopia: it paints a world in which people are killed if they don’t fit in, don’t follow the rules or are no longer useful. In fact, the father in the story euthanizes a baby who does not sleep at night.
How scary is that?
My daughter was 8 years old. I questioned the judgment of the parent who sent the book. It turned out that she had never read it. But I had. And, my child was too young to experience such a scary premise alone.
In the morning, my daughter picked up the book. I sat down next to her and said, ‘There may be upsetting things that happen in this book and I want to remind you that it’s all fiction – made up – and if you have any questions about it, I’m here.
She came to the part where the baby is “released”. Predictably, she was upset. She had questions. We explained what a dystopian world is, what the author was trying to say, why it matters, what is morally wrong in killing a child. We made grilled cheese sandwiches and we talked and talked and talked.
So what’s my point? I am his mother. I regularly help my children to decipher a very confusing world. It’s my job. My values shine through when I interpret the things around us through my lens.
I teach my children what is morally and socially correct.
I don’t need a state legislature full of people who don’t know me or my kids deciding what we can read. I suspect every family has their own comfort zone and limits. I will never tell your family what they can or cannot read.
That said, I trust teachers to make age-appropriate and topic-appropriate reading selections for my children. They are educators with extensive experience. I respect their profession.
And, if I don’t want my children to read something, I can say “No, thank you” and withdraw.
That’s why I’m so glad to hear that my hometown Board of Education in Park City is considering how to fend off the blatant excesses of the legislature, which clumsily tries to define “sensitive educational materials” and ” prohibits their use in public schools.”
I can’t believe we’re facing something like this in 2022.
Let’s be honest: the world is changing at a record pace. Books are little potatoes. Children have access to the Internet, which is a treasure trove of human knowledge. It’s also full of depravity.
When the chaos of the world enters my home, the best thing I can do for my children is to help them assimilate it. I am here and being the mother of my children is my job.
I don’t need a nanny state limiting my family’s access to the world beyond our home. I like my job. By what right do they see me?
I can decide what works for us. Until now, I have never had a politician at home during homework hours. Have you got?
Trying to limit access to the big world by limiting books is like trying to stem the tide. This tide will rise.
I can assure you that my children will have me there when it is.
Alisha Gorder is a wife and mother in Park City.