Opinion: Rather than fight books, we should fight to get kids to read – Houston Chronicle

Mori Love, 5, is mesmerized by a Curious George book at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center in Houston. ( Steve Gonzales / Houston Chronicle )
Regarding “Editorial: In America, we don’t ban ideas – we challenge them. Even in Texas,” (Nov. 4): With the divide separating alternate realities as stark as it is now, there is more urgency than ever in convincing people to listen to opposing points of view — so that if they must argue, they can do so civilly.
I was thinking about this when I walked into my classroom. I was struck by all of the books I keep in the room. It’s always been my goal to entice students to borrow my books.
There are, this year, very few books out on loan. I have two new copies of “Dune” — they’re both out. And other books? They seem lonely as they sit unused, unopened, on their shelves. I know: Books do not really feel much of anything. But I grew up thinking of books as some of my best friends. I once spent a sleepless night arguing with a friend over who the third most important Hobbit is in “The Lord of the Rings.” I said it was Sam Gamgee; he held out for Merry Brandybuck. There was no resolution, but it was a fun fight, because we shared common ground.
That debate was ages ago; perhaps it could still happen, but — and this is a source of indescribable grief to me — it isn’t likely to happen among my students.
Today, we have fights over who is silencing whom, or which “side” is indoctrinating the other.
David Newman, Odessa
From 13 years’ experience teaching in seven Texas school districts — including substituting from pre-K to AP classes — I can give these assurances in my 82nd year.
No teacher, principal or school librarian is going to put into your child’s hands a book you have expressed you don’t want provided to your child. Any assignment can have an alternate substituted for it. Most school personnel are also parents and want all parental rights maintained.
I stopped my own high school classes from translating a Harry Potter book from Spanish to English one time because one teenager claimed it was against his religion. I immediately substituted an Isabel Allende novel in Spanish with equal educational value (but not equal enjoyment by my students — sorry, Mrs. Allende).
With the assistance of the school librarian, I also provided an alternate assignment for a student whose atheist parent objected to any cultural information involving the mention of religion during coverage of Día de los Muertos.
The book budget for most Texas schools is not so lavish they can afford to buy and provide books a large proportion of parents do not want made available. But if you want to ensure your child finds some way to get ahold of and read something about things you don’t want them knowing exist, just make a big fuss about said book.
Marie Lewis, Conroe
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