Tuesday, May 13, 2014

SoL "Nice language" 5.13.14

Slice of Life is a weekly event hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

"Nice language." (said sarcastically)  That's what we would hear from my dad whenever we were watching something on TV that used a "bad word".  I still hear it in the back of my mind when I'm watching something that excessively uses those words.  
I work in a K-4 building.  Young, impressionable minds learn in our building!  And as all educators know, you have to have a wide variety of books for those ages.  Picture books are generally not a problem (although we did find a very interesting nonfiction spider book that went into way too much detail about spiders mating...), but middle grade novels can be tricky.  Of course we have to be careful about content of books.  But even in those books where the content is not questionable, language can be.
Where do we draw the line for language?  I know we cannot shelter kids or ban all books that have any "bad words" (and no, I'm not talking about the "s-word" being "stupid" - love when the 1st graders say that!!).  But 4th grade is still 4th grade.  What can we include in our school library?  I love Chris Colfer's book The Land of Stories:  This Wishing Spell.  But it uses the word "bastardize".  I'm really enjoying the new novel The Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson.  But it says "lazy-ass boys".  
In neither book do I feel the use of that word is necessary.  Another word could have been used, and maybe not as "hard core" as the other word, but it would not have taken something away from the book.  So why did the author choose to use it?  Make it edgier?  Stand out?  Make a point?
What language is ok for books in our school libraries to have?  What do you say to parents who object to having those books in the library?  I know schools with older grades are going to have these books.  But what about our elementary school libraries?  Where do they draw the line?
My dad taught me to always think about the language I'm using.  Do the words I use make me sound like a good person?  My dad is someone who NEVER uses swear words in front of his kids.  The few times we've heard him say one usually leaves us in shock!  I tend to use "unsavory words" when I'm upset.  I know they don't sound nice, but they help me release anger.  I try to never use them around my eight-year-old daughter.  One day we were in the car and the word "ass" was used in a song.  I quickly switched the channel, but my daughter informed me she already knew that word.  I asked her where she learned it and she said, "in a book".  Hmmm, what am I letting her read??  
Do you have a set rule at your elementary school?  Where do you draw the line?  Or do you?  What do you say to parents who get upset?


  1. THE 2 S words (stupid & shut up) are cuss words at our school. However, if I encounter them in literature, I read them. I also have a discussion with the kids about why I read them. They are the author's actual words and the kids know if I change things. We also talk about when and why an author would use them.

  2. Michele, we don't censor any books in our school, & have few issues with parents. It's K-8 independent. That said, we do expect teachers to be aware of the books they're suggesting to students, trying hard to be appropriate. One of the biggest issues is that the school is for gifted students who read beyond their age peers. When Twilight was such a rage, we had parents allowing their young kids to read it & while we pointed out its inappropriateness for younger children, they still did it, although not for any sanctioned school requirement. I was brought up too to use very proper language-stil can't even say 'butt', think it's vulgar, etc. I did just read Boys of Blur, and think it's more YA really, although others are saying middle grade. What a dilemma for your school at only K-4.

  3. I always read Bridge to Terabithia and it has a few words. I always tell the kids that the author wanted to write authentically and that is how Appalachian people at that time would have talked. I actually read that somewhere! I have had parents question my choice but I always back it up with the fact that it is on the Indiana DOE recommended reading list! :) Great thinking here!