Friday, May 18, 2012

Time for Book Ratings on YA Books, Says Dr. Sarah Coyne of Brigham Young University, While ALA Calls it Censorship

Dr. Sarah Coyne of Brigham Young University has recommended that book ratings be used to help parents make informed decisions.  On the other hand, Beth Yoke, Executive Director of the American Library Association's [ALA] Young Adult Library Services Association [YALSA], says book ratings are "censorship":
  • "Is It Time To Rate Young Adult Books for Mature Content?  A New Report Finds that Nearly All Young Adult Bestsellers Contain at Least Some Profanity," by Jason Koebler,  U.S. News & World Report, 18 May 2012:
    Coyne thinks a ratings system on book jackets would help parents decide what's appropriate for their kids to read.  It's a subject many are afraid to touch, with the talk of censorship or restricting books conjuring up images of book burnings and infringing on First Amendment Rights.

    "I think we put books on a pedestal compared to other forms of media," Coyne says.  "I thought long and hard about whether to do the study in the first place—I think banning books is a terrible idea, but a content warning on the back I think would empower parents."

    While books like Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars aren't ever going to end up alongside Catcher in the Rye or Huckleberry Finn in American literary canon, those books' messages are still important, experts argue.

    "Books can be a safe way for young people to explore edgier, sensitive, or complicated topics, and they provide parents the opportunity to help their teens grow and understand these kinds of sensitive issues," says Beth Yoke, executive director of the Young Adult Library Services Association, an offshoot of the American Library Association.  "ALA's interpretation on any rating system for books is that it's censorship."

So ALA's YALSA calls it "censorship" to use book ratings to give people/schools the notice needed to make informed decisions as to what's best for their children.  This from the organization that says keeping R-rated movies from children is censorship:

and that every single person who ever complains about any book is a "censor":

And the ALA is the organization that intentionally fakes its annual Top 10 List of Challenged Books to inflate the handful of cases into a national tragedy and push political or social buttons to promote its own interests:
Naomi Wolf
"Young Adult Fiction: Wild Things"

As you decide whom to believe, Dr. Sarah Coyne/BYU or Beth Yoke/ALA, please consider:

See also:

The decision is yours.  Is it time for book ratings?  Comment below, if you wish.


Below is the ALA's view on labeling and rating systems—basically, it is censorship.  Keep in mind the ALA also said it was censorship to filter computers in public libraries.  Its bluff was called on that in US v. ALA where the Court found it is not censorship.


Thanks to an excellent comment below, I am reminded that book ratings are used successfully in many places without being falsely labeled as censorship.  I have previous written about the case in St. Louis, so I'll link those posts now:

See also these posts that illustrate how the ALA works to mislead people on book labeling to try to force its way on communities, such as St. Louis:


Oh read this excellent post on the topic:


  1. Dr. Coyne,

    We have been successfully doing this in the St. Louis County Library System for about three years.

    This identification system was adopted by the library board in response to concerns by parents regarding the content of books in the area designated for children ages 11-17. This was not considered “censorship” by the library board, library staff or the community at large. It was viewed as a way to help parents decide what may or may not be appropriate for their own children.

    The library staff now identifies books in the “Youth Area” that are sexually explicit and that contain more adult content with the notation of “high school. ” It is a small label on the spine of the book. In no way are these books censored. They are still readily available for children and are still in the children's area. Children may still check them out. They don't require parental permission to check them out. But concerned parents are now given extra information. It allows busy parents to use their time wisely by helping them identify which books they may want to spend the time previewing.

    Somehow, the ALA has made the word “labeling” a pejorative word. We label everything else. We put labels on food, movies, video games, music, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, toys, clothes, appliances, and even amusement park rides. This information does not seek to demean the product in anyway. Rather, these “labels” are meant to help consumers make informed decisions. For literally hundreds of years, libraries have been cataloging and labeling books. This is what libraries do. Books are identified by the subject area, time period, whether they are fiction or non fiction and even their lexile level. One more piece of information to help parents just makes sense.

    Helping busy parents is a just good customer service. It is just one more way for a community service provider to show their concern and commitment to their community.

    1. What a brilliant idea! But you should take it a step further and highlight the juicy bits in yellow marker. It's helpful to tell kids, "This book has a steamy sex scene in it," but it's even more helpful to tell them which page it's on.

    2. Okay, that's funny, Bryce_Anderson. There was a book like that, I think, see here.

  2. What an excellent comment, thank you. So excellent that I have significantly upgraded my post by adding in many of the posts I have previously written about the St. Louis matter and how rating books works perfecting fine in that community.

    Further, St. Louis provides an example of how the American Library Association works to intentionally mislead local communities, and on the very issue of book ratings, no less. This is so important to know when considering how much weight to give to the ALA's claims of censorship. Remember, it claimed library computer filters amounted to censorship, and that turned out to be 100% false.

  3. I think there's a legitimate concern that a book rating system makes it much *easier* to pressure libraries into either moving books written for young adults out of that section, or not carrying them at all. On the other hand, it could have the opposite effect of making it easier to include very controversial titles without parents complaining that there was no convenient way to know what their kids were checking out.

    My ideal library would carry extremely offensive materials (that have some other merit), but go out of its way to make it easy for individuals and families to avoid exposure to them. I don't believe the ALA's current guidelines facilitate either side of this scenario. At some point, I'll have to write a detailed essay on this.

    1. Thanks, Garren. Be sure to include mention of all the other things the ALA considers as censorship which are not. Here's the ALA providing just the latest example of that: "Free 'Difficult Conversations' Webcast Now Available."


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