Did School Book Fair Try to Indoctrinate First-Graders?
A Georgia bookstore shut down a private school’s book fair after it was asked by school administrators to hide a gay-themed book from children as young as three years old.
Avid Bookshop accused Athens Academy of “discrimination, censorship and homophobia” after it was told to remove a copy of The Best Man from the March 7th book fair.
The Best Man, written by Georgia Book Award nominee Richard Peck, addresses LGBT themes for young readers. The New York Times hailed the book’s “revolutionary” approach to “gayness.”
The incident was first reported by the Athens Banner-Herald in a story titled, “Athens’ Avid Bookshop shuts down book fair at Athens Academy after being told to hide gay-themed book.”
“Several parents raised concerns over a book that contained situations they were not yet prepared to discuss with their young children, and a decision was made to remove the book to a more discreet location,” Head of School John Thornsen wrote on the school’s website.
It certainly seemed to be a reasonable concern, seeing how the book fair was designed for children from the ages of three to nine.
“It was never at any time our intention to make anyone feel marginalized by this decision,” Thorsen wrote.
The bookshop fired back in a lengthy Facebook post accusing the parents of being “unwilling to admit to their children that gay couples exist.”
“After the book was removed, we were told that it had to be completely hidden from view and placed back in a box so no child could accidentally discover it,” the bookshop wrote. “We gave them an opportunity to put the book back with the other Georgia Book Award nominees and issue a public apology, but they refused.”
The bookshop staff said it sent a list of the books it planned to display at the fair and that list was approved by the Athens Academy librarian. If that’s the case, shame on the librarian.
Avid Bookshop staffers said they were “uncomfortable working in an environment that condones this kind of censorship.”
“Much of our staff identifies as queer or LGBTQIA+, and Avid Bookshop’s mission has always been one of inclusivity, kindness and understanding,” they wrote. “We were kids once, too, and for some of us these books could have made a huge difference.”
Oh, so this was about indoctrination?
“The positive affirmation these stories provide can save years of confusion, discomfort, and unhappiness for queer kids,” they added.
“We have watched our whole lives while adults decide to keep kids in the dark because they are scared or confused, and we cannot be complicit in that now that we are adults,” the bookshop wrote.
But does that give Avid Bookshop’s staff the right to assist a three-year-old or a nine-year-old in coming to terms with their sexuality?
Athens Academy touted its tradition of being an “inclusive, safe, caring and diverse community” and denied it supported any form of censorship or discrimination.
“At the heart of this issue is Athens Academy’s support for our parents’ right to engage in conversations with their children in the manner and time they deem most appropriate,” Thorsen wrote.
In other words, it is the responsibility of the parents to have conversations about human sexuality with their children, not a staff member of an independent bookstore.