Good books deemed inappropriate

(40 Posts)
Growlithe Wed 30-Jan-13 10:23:22

Hi,

I read with DD's Y4 class. Over the course of the last few weeks more and more of the children, girls and boys, are bringing David Walliams books in from home. They are devouring these books, and it's very encouraging to see them enjoy reading so much, especially as some of them had been reluctant readers.

I started a thread about him recently in Chat, as DD was enjoying his books so much, but wasn't aware of his talent in other areas. A few MNetters even commented about how the books were helping their DCs with reading difficulties.

I am dismayed to hear this week, that his books are now banned in the school for containing inappropriate language. Pupils can no longer bring them from home.

Yes, there are some words I would rather my DD did not use herself, but we've spoken about these, and I was appy for her to read them in the book and understand their context, knowing that she will be exposed to them sooner or later anyway.

But to ban brilliant books, that are doing wonders in encouraging children to read? I think the school is being very short sighted, but don't know if I am in a position to complain.

Does anyone know if there are actually any set guidelines on this sort of thing?

I don't know about guidelines, but could you give me an idea of the words they contain? DD was given these for Christmas, she's 5 & in year 1 hmm so I've put them away for now but wasn't aware of any potential language issues.

My first instinct though would be to say that any book that gets kids enthusiastic about reading is a Good Thing and the school are daft if they try and stop it happening.

It's ridiculous. As if so many children don't hear innapropriate language at home and repeat it in school anyway.

Has a parent complained do you think?

Growlithe Wed 30-Jan-13 11:59:08

Well, Billionaire Boy contains the words 'git' and 'slag'. My DD had already been introduced to the word 'slag' when she read out loud some graffiti when we were out in the car and asked what it meant hmm.

Perhaps a parent has complained, as they had started to stock the books in the school library - and I presume have now withdrawn them. If this is the case, do you think I could state the other side of the argument and get anywhere?

I'm not very confident when going into the school, but I feel quite strongly about this. My DD loves these books, and will continue to read them at home, but has not become a potty mouth. Also others in the class, who had previously read to me bland books in a monotone voice, have come alive reading these.

It all seems unfair on them.

Growlithe Wed 30-Jan-13 12:02:40

Rue - please don't let the words above put you off. Whilst the books are a bit mature for a 5 yo, they are ideal for an 8 or 9 year old and are akin, and on a par with, Roahl Dahl IMO.

OldBeanbagz Wed 30-Jan-13 12:06:56

David Walliams is doing great things to encourage reading and it's ridiculous to be banning his books in school.

My DD (Y6) has read all of them and there's no language that i would consider unsuitable for Y4 children. My own DS (Y3) hasn't read any of them yet but he has listened to a couple of the audio books and there was nothing that shocked.

You'll probably discover that it was a parent who complained. We had a dad in DD's class who went in to see the teacher but that was a book with swearing in it.

You could certainly give it a try. It's up to the school whether they stock them in the library (what a waste of money if they're now not using them!), but mild swear words read in the context of Free Reading in school wouldn't be an issue to me as a parent.
If I didn't want my child to read them then fair enough, but I make the decisions about what is read in my house and for school and i'd be very hmm to be told otherwise.

Do bring it up if you feel you can, as you're right that to crush any spark of interest in reading, particularly aloud, is counterproductive to the curriculum and the individual child's progress.

It also makes mild swearing seem strangely alluring and 'banned' books slightly naughty, which will only cause problems later on when there's a rogue 'damn' or 'shit' in a Yr6 book.

newpup Wed 30-Jan-13 12:28:46

That is sad. David Walliams is a fantastic writer for children and in my opinion his books are up there with Roald Dahl. How sad to blanket ban them. Reading should not be sanitized, books reflect real life. Obviously there are boundries of appropriateness, with good reason but reading is a safe way to discover the real world. It is hardly fifty shades of grey!!!!!

It does seem
Unfair. It's not like they would t read it at home anyway. Perhaps they could just not give them to the younger kids.

However I think u should lo on the bright side, that they r at least trying to ensure what the children read at school is age appropriate and clean.

I can't see how it's much worse than some of what the reading scheme books contain, theres been reports of drunk horses, creepy looking care takers and my dds had at least two containing pictures illustrations obviously) of a man wearing only underpants cos a dog stole his trousers.

Growlithe Wed 30-Jan-13 13:49:02

Wheresmy The trouble with looking for age appropriate and clean books is who defines that? I think DWs books are age appropriate and clean enough for my DD(9).

Children of that age do need something with a bit more edge and relevance than Rainbow Magic and stories about adventurous puppies. DW fills a hole in the market for this age group, in a similar way as Jacqueline Wilson does, only better because he appeals to girls and boys.

That's the trouble. Everyone's idea of clean and appropriate differs. As with everything schools r damned if they do and damned if they don't.

The way school probably look at it is that parets have complained about the content so they removed them. You can't unread a book but u can read one at home. If that makes sense.

I personally don't see how they can send home dull crappy reading scheme books and then object to a book that actually encourages
Kids to read given that most the kids I know hate the scheme books.

But you know what some parents can be like. School r in an awkward position where they can't please everyone .

Thanks - not so far off as I thought (she's read a fair bit of Roald Dahl, including Matilda a couple of months ago). I'll probably keep them till the end of year 2/start of year 3 ish age and skim them myself before handing them over!

Now, my DS is nine and he likes the David Walliams books but I'm not sure I would want my son reading the word 'slag' or bringing home a book from school containing it. It's a foul word for a female (unless you mean it in the context of slagging someone off)

I have form for complaining about school books though - the school have withdrawn three that I pointed out had inappropriate content, including swearing and quite nasty violence. The teacher was apologetic and said that some of these books were left over from a time when the school had a big drive to get boys reading and purchased these more realistic texts to encourage them. As a mother of sons, I'm not sure that I want them reading words like 'bastard' or reading about men fighting or stories that use the word 'slag' just to 'engage' them (surely good stories should just be engaging anyway)

I think schools do have a duty to protect children from bad language and not to be seen condoning or encouraging this.

Isn't it "slag [someone] off" in that book? Not that it makes it a good word to use and the context should be explained, but it's a bit different to calling someone a slag as such.

DS is reading some thriller type books atm which I was dubious about at first, but he's ploughing through them, enjoying them immensely and is taking on board what I say about the words being in context, not something to be repeated etc.

neolara Wed 30-Jan-13 14:22:29

I really wouldnt' recommend you let your 5 year old read his books. They are fab for slightly older kids. It's not so much the language, but a lot of the concepts will just go over his head. Much better to read at the right stage and really relish them than read them too early and only half understand.

Or read them when they fancy it and go back to them later, neolara.

Growlithe Wed 30-Jan-13 14:33:48

I've just checked - 'Slag' is used in Billionaire Boy by bullies of an indeterminate gender to a girl who is sticking up for the boy they are bullying. She goes on to fight them off with martial arts.

I was called a 'slag' in school (admittedly secondary school) by boys and girls of good background 30 years before these books were written. You can't keep these words from them, but you can introduce them in a way that it's you that gets to discuss them and their meaning with your child, rather than hearing them for the first time in the playground.

Thank's for explaining the context OP. I'm not sure that my DS, sitting up in bed with a book, would bring the word to my attention so that we could discuss it, though. In fact I'm sure he wouldn't because he didn't wink

Growlithe Wed 30-Jan-13 14:46:31

My DD did Laura - in fact she couldn't wait to. grin As I said upthread she did know of the word after seeing it on some graffiti and asking what it meant.

MyNameIsLola Wed 30-Jan-13 14:51:30

My Y4 DS has read all of the David Wallians books and loved them and I enjoyed them too. There is nothing in them that he hasn't come across before nor anything that I was uncomfortable about him reading.

Kids will inevitably come across bad language (probably way before age 8) and it's a parents job to help them understand it isn't okay to use it but will be said in certain contexts sometimes.

The school and the parent who complained (most likely scenario) and being far too precious. It's far worse to quash a child's enjoyment of reading than it is to let them hear a swear word.

Growlithe Wed 30-Jan-13 18:47:42

It's creating a little black market in DDs class. They are working out who has which of the books so they can pass them around. grin

Excellent! Maybe that is the school's Plan all along grin Some kind of Literacy Experiment for this term.....

StuffezLaBouche Wed 30-Jan-13 20:57:07

Im reading His Dark Materials to my y6s at the mo and they piss themselves at the odd 'bloody' or 'hell' though i must admit im not looking forward to the kissing/strange "body sensations" stuff at the end of the trilogy!

TalkingToTheWoodlice Wed 30-Jan-13 21:10:03

I bought "The Boy in the Dress" for my 7yo DD. I'm glad that I read it myself first. It was great and I know that she would be capable of and enjoy reading now but it had concepts (in particular porn mags) that I don't think she needs to know about yet. I've kept it till she's older, probably 10+.

changejustforyou Wed 30-Jan-13 21:57:59

o great, dd has had some of them from school. I'll start reading them now smile

jalapeno Wed 30-Jan-13 22:01:35

What a shame, I can't believe they banned it. Harry Potter is peppered with gits!

Euphemia Wed 30-Jan-13 22:24:00

I read Gangsta Grannie during a sleepless night last week and cried my wee eyes out. No way I'm reading that to a class! grin

Euphemia Wed 30-Jan-13 22:24:29

And bloody hells, jalapeno!

I also read with a year 4 class and again many of the kids (boys and girls) are reading the DW books and loving them. Seems shortsighted.

PeasandCucumbers Wed 30-Jan-13 23:25:31

My DC are a bit younger (Y3 & Y2) and we have read Mr Stink as a bedtime family story but have yet to read any of his others. I wouldn't mind either of them reading the word git but would definitely not want them reading a book at school or bringing a book home from school where a girl was called a slag (as opposed to that term being used in the slagging off context which I wouldn't mind). As I said I haven't read any of the others but any obvious reference of porn mags is even more inappropriate. I wonder what age DW intended his books to be read by

Dd1 (nearly 8) has read them all, they were the first books to really inspire her to read, the first ones we caught her reading under the tablecloth at supper!

Having said that I can understand the school's perspective. It is different when it is read at home and a parent can explain the term, context, and inappropriate language. And judge for themselves if their child is mature enough to understand words but not use them. She is currently reading Hucklebury Finn(book club group), but due to some of the language we have carefully discussed the context, the sociopolitical situation in the USA then etc. And that certain words should never be said. I wouldn't be happy with her reading it unsupervised in class, chatting with friends about what it might mean. (I realise that they are not totally unsupervised, but it won't be on a 1 to 1 basis)

I bought these for DS, he is only 5 so I assumed it would be a few years. I didn't know this and glad I do now

prettydaisies Thu 31-Jan-13 07:48:22

Perhaps it's a subversive way to get children to read - think Spycatcher or Sons and Lovers or other banned books!

treas Thu 31-Jan-13 23:59:07

Actually find the David Walliams books somewhat plot light.

RaisinBoys Fri 01-Feb-13 04:02:56

DS read them all - loved them. I'm not at all worried about the language - it is in context and is not gratuitous in my opinion.

Banning books seems a little reactionary.

Incidentally Billionaire Boy is on the recommended reading list for the national 'Read for my School' competition

Butkin Fri 01-Feb-13 10:34:52

DD took some money to the school Book Fair yesterday - where reduced books are sold with some profits going to the school. She bought Ratburger back and had rushed through the first couple of chapters before tea.

Growlithe Fri 01-Feb-13 10:49:35

I think I'm going to read the lot myself, cover to cover, find out all the issues. I've only had them read to me by DD, and by her classmates in school.

For example, DD hasn't read 'The Boy in the Dress' yet, but is desperate to, so I didn't know about the reference to porn magazines. I think I would still let her read it though. She is 9 and as someone upthread said, it's hardly Fifty Shades.

Once I've read them I be better armed to ask the school why it's taken this stance, especially given the fact that one of the books is recommended reading in a national children's reading competition - thanks Raisin.

amck5700 Fri 01-Feb-13 15:01:01

My son once came home with a book that looked like a Harry Potter book but was actually a spoof - all about girls being taken into the woods and various other adult type stuff - Headmistress was shock and blush when I took it back to them. grin

So maybe there needs to be a bit of censorship but I don't think David Walliams falls on the banned side of the line.

jalapeno Sat 02-Feb-13 09:55:44

I read Billionaire Boy and didn't rate it but if the kids like it I'm all for them reading it!

Elibean Sat 02-Feb-13 14:57:21

dd is Y4, and just finished Gangsta Granny - which she enjoyed. Her school certainly hasn't banned it, though possibly wouldn't have it on its own shelves - brought in from home was fine!

I haven't read all of it, but the parts she's read out loud to me were fine for her age.

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