The Styling Librarian

In my opinion, books are the best accessory.

Styling Librarian: Censorship Continued, focus: The Dirty Cowboy

I feel like it is a necessity to teach my students about Banned and Challenged Books. I appreciate our right in America to speak our minds and stand up for what we believe is correct. I appreciate when people in a community agree to disagree about something and respect that even though there are differing opinions, you don’t necessarily need to change the other person’s mind or rights. This has been an ongoing discussion with most of my classes from third through fifth grade. 

I’ve always had a LIBRARY ALERT sign up in my library that I used from a library media conference years ago. For me, it states exactly my stance on reading selection, censorship, and banned books:

“Reading is a joy, a privilege, and the right of every student. As you select library books you will read, please understand that every book is not the best choice for every student. If a book is unappealing to you in any way, please return it and select another book. You, the student, know which reading materials best serve your standards, reading level, and beliefs.”

I already posted about The Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Adam RexStyling Librarian: What are you reading? 5/7/12 Science Fiction and Banned Books

I brought The Dirty Cowboy into the library for my fifth grade Banned and Challenged book class discussion today. I explained that often fifth graders (and older) will have a different point-of-view in comparison to a Kindergartener when it comes to nudity in a book. I read the book aloud and asked students to reflect on the bookwhile it was being shared with questions like:

-How would you approach this book: with humor or the critical eye?

-Do you think this book steps over the line? Is it indecent with nudity?

-Would you step up and want to ban this book?

My students discussed in table groups after we finished reading and wrote the following responses:

  • Should not be banned because everything is covered up and we actually thought it was funny
  • If they show this book in elementary, the kids might take it too seriously, so I think that it is 50/50 that elementary should have this book because it is fun. But they shouldn’t because they might take it too serious and turn it into a joke
  • It should not be banned
  • It was a very funny and good book. I don’t think it deserves to be banned because the parts in the pictures are covered and the words aren’t super descriptive
  • Good book, private parts covered, I don’t think it should be banned.
  • The illustrator never shows the cowboy’s inappropriate body parts
  • We didn’t think it was inappropriate at all and shouldn’t be banned. It was awesome because of the main idea. I sort of thought it was a bad influence because he only took a bath once a year! There are tons of books with nudity, usually all different.
  • It was awesome… because besides the gross naked parts it was awesome when the cowboy and the dog were mud wrestling.
  • I think it was ok. I think it shouldn’t be banned and also it didn’t show anything bad.
  • I liked it and didn’t see anything wrong with it.
  • Thought it was funny and shouldn’t be banned
  • I am glad it was banned, the book was weird
  • I didn’t think it was bad.
  • It was “OK”
  • Dirty Cowboy: funny, weird/different, interesting, not inappropriate
  • We thought it was a good book and most of us thought it was not that bad.
  • It was kind of weird- not truly inappropriate but I think I see why it was banned.
  • I thought it was not very inappropriate but to other people it is.
  • A little weird but it was a good book. Maybe the dog should have taken a bath too. Very interesting.
  • We think it was ok, there was nothing bad and we thought that it was perfectly appropriate.
  • Not sure why it is banned.
  • Funny illustrations.
I appreciate how my students provided a variety of responses, were open-minded to other people’s points of view, and enjoyed seeing the extra comments that popped up about the book. I love getting to this point in the year with my fifth graders when we talk about library citizenship and rights as a reader. Next class we will be reading, reviewing, and judging more challenged and banned picture books, poetry books, and non-fiction books. I love listening to discussions that crop up during these sessions. After we have the review of those books, we’ll have a mini role play activity about a specific challenged book.
When I originally posted about The Dirty Cowboy, Amy Timberlake replied on Twitter with a new post she had on a petition that seeks the return of Dirty Cowboy to the shelf. Thought I would share that link here:  If you feel strongly about Banned Books, here is one activism piece you might appreciate. Additionally, I just read a brilliant, succinct letter on Adam Rex’s page: that I wish every person would read. Shall share with my students next week.

Past comment about The Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Adam Rex
My son and I loved reading this book. So humorous and the illustrations are fabulous. I always love reading those challenged (and banned) books. I was talking with my students about  how when I hear about a book being banned, my first instinct is to log into my public library account and place the book on hold so that I can judge it for myself vs. letting others try to determine my reading selections. We’re enjoying exploration of banned and challenged books presently in library class time. We’re also talking about rights and responsibilities of being library citizens. Told my students about The Dirty Cowboy and they begged me to bring it in and also buy it for the library. Shall do both! …  I admire all the teacher librarians that stand up for childrens’ rights to access books that appropriately fit their needs and accommodate their interests!
Here is a wonderful article about the controversy that Amy Timberlake has dealt with through her book being challenged and banned:

One comment on “Styling Librarian: Censorship Continued, focus: The Dirty Cowboy

  1. Pingback: Styling Librarian: Technology Resources Shared for May 2012 « The Styling Librarian

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