Sunday, October 8, 2023

The chicks went "back to the farm"

and the youth department at the library where I work is completely back to normal. Where did they go? kids and their grown-ups ask me, and I say, "Oh, the farm has people lined up who want pet chickens for their backyards,"

which I was not 100 percent sure is true.

When the farmer came to pick them up, I asked him. We had a nice conversation, and I learned a lot about chickens. For example, the adorable fuzzy yellow chicks grow into the white stereotypical chickens we all picture when we picture a chicken. And, yes, it is true that some people want egg-laying chickens for their backyards. And, you can't tell which chickens are female egg-laying chickens and which are male roosters quite yet, and statistically, our little group is probably fifty/fifty, and most people don't want roosters or they're not allowed in suburban areas, and even if they are allowed, a coop can only have one...

and suddenly, I could see where he was going with this.

I missed a day with the chickens because I agreed to co-present at a school librarian conference with a friend of mine. The topic was Banned Books. Almost ten years ago the two of us put together a presentation for another conference on the same subject, but back then, we approached book banning as kind of a kooky, fringe thing that mostly happened in the past. 

Our concern was that school librarians might soft-censor (meaning, not purchase certain books for their collections) out of a perceived fear of confrontation or controversary, but we assured them that the book banning thing was way overblown and to keep in mind how many kids in their communities really need these books.

I was stunningly naive. 

For our presentation this year we focused on procedures for handling book challenges, how to find allies who are also under attack (such as community theaters), and ways to justify and defend book purchases. After the presentation some of the librarians confessed that they've already dealt with the problem and it is time consuming and demoralizing. 

I went back to work the next day. It was the last day of Banned Book Week and our library had a display of banned books, something we've done every year, but this year, I had wondered if we'd still do it. And I worried about how I'd handle a complaint about a book. Except, I already know-- (see: my unsettling interaction at the library a few weeks ago). 

Suddenly, I realize that I have been sorta lying to little kids about what happens to chickens. 

It's not easy to face the hard truths about the world--and about ourselves. And how do we decide when it's appropriate to expose our children to what we've learned? I want to say that a three-year-old isn't ready to hear that Mr. Fancy Pants might end up in his chicken nuggets. 

Mr. Fancy Pants, I suspect, may have a different opinion. 

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