Written by Phil Bildner, Children’s Author @
“Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.” – Laurie Halse Anderson, Author
Whenever I present to kids at my school visits, I always booktalk other authors’ books. It’s important for kids to know about the great stories that are out there.
I always talk about empathy, too. There’s an empathy portion of my school visit presentations. We talk about characters who are different than us. Look different. Believe different things. Dress differently. Because when we read, we develop a better understanding of the human experience.
That’s what I tell the students.
Last September and October, when I visited the thirteen elementary schools in Round Rock ISD, I booktalked a number of books: Wonder; Out of My Mind; The One and Only Ivan; Crenshaw; El Deafo; George.
I booktalked George to fourth graders at six schools and to a combined assembly of third and fifth graders at another. I shared with the kids the book’s most basic and beautiful message. Be who you are.
But I didn’t talk about George at all the schools.
At the last six schools I visited in Round Rock ISD last fall, I was monitored by an administrator. No, not an administrator from that school, a district administrator. At every presentation. In fact, the Director of Library and Media Services for Round Rock ISD attended more than a dozen presentations at five different schools.
I’ve been visiting the Round Rock schools every year since 2007. I can count on one hand the number of times an administrator from any district has stayed for even a portion of my presentations prior to last year.
So ask those administrators who attended last year’s presentations about those presentations. Ask the Director of Library & Media Services about last October’s monthly librarians’ meeting held after my final school visit last fall.
And while you’re asking questions, ask Round Rock ISD how this all started.
Ask them that.
Written by Kristin Pekoll, Office for Intellectual Freedom, Assistant Director
I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Phil on the phone and communicating via email. His distress at this situation is palpable. His number one concern is for the kids and the librarians. You can’t google his name without tripping over the accolades and resounding endorsements from librarians, students and other authors. I was reading this account of a school visit at England Elementary School with Phil, where the librarian, Emily Kupersztoch, starts with, “One of my favorite days of the year is when Author Phil Bildner visits our library for a Writing Camp with 4th grade!”
Yet despite all of these testimonials, the school district claimed to “make other arrangements.” They provided no other reason or communication to Phil. Are the librarians questioning the decision to disinvite Phil Bildner? Are they hearing complaints from families who were looking forward to his extraordinary writing camps? Are they reading the strong supportive letters from award winning authors like Ellen Hopkins, Kirby Larson, and R. J. Palacio? We don’t know. Because no one is talking to us. Is this censorship? We don’t have all the answers. Help us continue to ask Round Rock ISD for a response to our questions.
Point number 3 of the Library Bill of Rights encourages “III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.” We hope you challenge the administration with your questions. There is strength in numbers. There is support for an educator or community member who stands against censorship. How exactly does someone challenge censorship? How can you best ask questions?
- Write a letter
- Post on Social Media
- Attend a Board Meeting
- Thursday, June 23rd @ 6:00 pm. Located at Round Rock High School Lecture Hall. 300 Lake Creek Drive in Round Rock, Texas.
- Public Comments
- Make a phone call
- Dr. Steve Flores, Superintendent, 512-464-5022
Ami Uselman, Director, Library Services, 512-428-2975
- Have a conversation!
Editor’s Note: Round Rock ISD has not communicated via social media. When OIF emailed Round Rock ISD they replied the same day.