16 August 2014

What Do Those Challenges to The Giver Mean?

Slate just ran Ben Blatt’s article with the incendiary headline “The Giver Banned” and the more temperate subtitle “Why Do So Many Parents Try to Remove Lois Lowry’s Book?”

Blatt wrote:
Since its release in 1993, The Giver has been one of the most controversial books in American schools. Between 1990 and 1999, The Giver ranked 11th on the list of the books most frequently requested for removal. In the 2000s it was 23rd, just two spots below To Kill a Mockingbird. This Friday marks the release of the first film adaptation of The Giver, which is likely to renew fandom, as well as opposition, to the dystopian young adult novel.
That analysis is lacking several crucial variables:
  • just how many schools and school libraries have The Giver as a standard title. The more schools use a book, especially as assigned reading for a whole class, the more likely it is to prompt challenges, but the rate of those challenges could still be much lower than for other titles.
  • how much difference there is between the top of the list and 23rd.
The article states that, in contrast to most other controversial titles, and especially the most challenged, “The most frequently cited reasons to challenge The Giver have been ‘Violence’ and claims that the book is ‘Unsuited to [the] Age Group’—or in other words that it’s too dark for children.” That point is accompanied by a chart showing how types of challenges to The Giver compared to the ALA’s total database. But the chart offers no “n value”—no statement of how many challenges were counted.

And that complaint brings up another missing variable: what grades the complaints were coming from. To a parent “Unsuited to Age Group” doesn’t mean too dark for all children but too dark for the particular children assigned to read it.

And let’s face it, The Giver is a dark book, regardless of what age its readers are. That’s kind of the point.

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