AASL formally dissuades school librarians from labeling items according to content and reading level.
In Common Sense Media’s reviews, conflating the the amount of “inappropriate” content and the value of the messages within the same five-star rating system does a disservice to parents, youth, and art as a whole.
Euphoria recognizes that progress and growth don’t happen in a straight line. Works of art are not simply vehicles for morals and “positive messages,” and Common Sense Media’s rating system over-simplifies the relationship between art and virtue.
BISAC headings have made their way into public and school libraries as well. A 2013 Knowledge Quest issue on the “Dewey Debate” provides a good intro to the “Dewey or don’t we” debate in school libraries, and many public libraries have made news for their move toward the “bookstore model,” what is often called a more patron-friendly approach than the Dewey Decimal System.
How do educators create a society of readers? It’s not by restricting reading to an accepted range of Lexile levels or only books that have a quiz attached to them. Reading levels can be a useful tool to assist in guiding a child to the right book for them, but when those numbers become the only determining factor of what is acceptable to read, we have a problem.
Trigger warnings, initially designed to give advance notice of content potentially detrimental to those who have suffered trauma, have made their way into everyday situations and become code for ‘stuff that may be offensive or upsetting.’
Regulations have been proposed and are being considered by the Virginia Board of Education which would require local school districts to tell parents whenever books or textbooks contain “sexually explicit material” are being used for teaching.
These days, Common Sense Media’s initiatives contain a less than subtle paternalism based on the conviction that its values should control children’s learning experiences. Early pronouncements like Core Belief #6 (“We believe that through informed decision making, we can improve the media landscape one decision at a time”) suddenly come across as a determination to reform that landscape in its own image.