In a letter to the Alamogordo Public School District in Alamogordo, New Mexico, the Kids’ Right to Read Project urged officials to reconsider the removal of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere (Avon) from high school English classrooms and lessons.
After the school received a complaint from a parent, teaching of the book was suspended mid-lesson. The complaint concerns a passage that includes strong language and a description of an overheard discussion about a potential extramarital affair.
According to KRRP, the school district’s policy regarding complaints about teaching materials states that an issue should be resolved informally, on campus and among school personnel, if possible. Instead, the parent in this case addressed the school’s administration and the media directly. The title, which was added to the school’s approved texts list in 2004, was subsequently removed from classrooms and lesson plans without evaluation.
Upon learning of the complaint, the teacher willingly offered the student an alternative assignment, said KRRP.
Noting that a committee is now reviewing the use of the book in the school’s classrooms, KRRP urged the district “to support the professional judgment of teachers and freedom to read of students and retain use of this book.”
“Getting teens to enjoy reading is a notoriously challenging task for teachers and librarians. Neil Gaiman’s work is famous for both its literary merit and mass appeal to teen readers, especially boys,” said Kids’ Right to Read Project Coordinator Acacia O’Connor. “This book has been taught successfully and without incident to hundreds of Alamogordo students; there’s no grounds to ban it now.”
The letter was signed by the National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Booksellers Foundation For Free Expression, the American Library Association, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and the Association of American Publishers.
In the past six weeks, KRRP has provided advocacy in nine states for 13 book-related challenges.