Should certain books be banned from the Cass County public libraries? That was the topic of discussion during the latest Cass County Library Board meeting.
During the July 20 Cass County Public Library Board meeting, several people showed up to express their disapproval of certain books on the shelves. Specifically, there is at least one book about sex education written for preadolescents, children between 10 and 14, that some people deem inappropriate.
However, Dan Brower, director of the Cass County Public Library, claims there is nothing inappropriate about the books, at least the one at the center of the controversy.
The book at the center of the controversy is titled “It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health.”
Written by Robie Harris and published in 1994, the book is written specifically for preadolescent children 10 and older. In the Cass County Public Library, the book is in the age-appropriate section for children 10 and older.
The book explores the definitions of sex and sex education-related topics. Illustrations include naked individuals in a variety of relationships, including homosexual relationships. Although the illustrations can be viewed as explicit, they simply illustrate human sexuality, which is what the book is trying to teach preadolescents as their bodies and feelings begin to change.
“It’s Perfectly Normal” has won several awards, including American Literature Association Notable Children’s Book, School Library Journal Best Books and Wilson Library Bulletin Favorite Reads.
According to the Cass County Public Library’s website, the book is available in the juvenile nonfiction section at the Archie, Drexel, Garden City, Harrisonville, Northern Resource Center and Pleasant Hill locations.
Since its publication, many have called “It’s Perfectly Normal” child pornography.
Although “It’s Perfectly Normal” has been on shelves since 1994, Cass County Public Library Director Dan Brower said the controversy started about a year ago.
After a viral video about the book made its rounds, some residents grew concerned. At one point last year, there were dozens of protesters outside the library in Harrisonville.
During the library’s latest board meeting one commenter said that “These issues are not appropriate for our youngest, most vulnerable children.”
Another resident said these types of books should not be in the hands of “toddlers.”
While some may be asking for an outright ban, many others just want the book moved somewhere else in the library. Despite the book being marked for children 10 and older, some residents want the book moved to a more “age appropriate” section.
Although no one at the meeting called “It’s Perfectly Normal” child pornography, there were several who still find the book inappropriate.
In a Facebook post, Jessica Levsen, who is running for state representative of District 62, said “The other side and their radical agenda desire to keep books that talk about sex and have sexually related images (majority and cartoon images, still disturbing) and masturbation in the children’s section.”
“Although many of us find these books that start trying to sexualize our children at a young impressionable age appalling, we are only asking it to be moved from the children’s section of the library,” Levsen said.
Despite concerns from some citizens, the library is keeping “It’s Perfectly Normal” on the shelves in the appropriate children’s section.
“We base our purchases on reviews and where publishers and authors write and intend their books to go,” Brower said. “It’s not like I can’t write a book and just say, ‘This is going to be for five-year-olds.’”
Before a book is published for a certain age group, it goes through a process to ensure that the book is appropriate for those ages.
“We stand for the First Amendment,” Brower said. “We don’t believe in any form of censorship, whether that’s banning, removing, or restricting access on any of our items.”
Brower told The Raymore Journal that if people are concerned about what their children are reading, which they should be, that is their responsibility.
“Personally, I don’t like it when other people try to tell me what my kids can and can’t read, and I try to stay away from that,” Brower said. “I just stick with the fact that that was a book written and intended for ten-year-olds. If I was a 10-year-old looking for a book written for me, I would go to the section that you would find those books.”
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