________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 12 . . . .February 8, 2008


Challenging Silence, Challenging Censorship: Inclusive Resources, Strategies and Policy Directives for Addressing Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Trans-Identified and Two-Spirited Realities in School and Public Libraries.

Alvin Schrader & Kristopher Wells.
Ottawa, ON: Canadian Teachers' Federation, 2007.
85 pp., pbk., $15.00.
ISBN 0-88989-360-8.


Review by Dave Jenkinson.

**** /4



Not all minorities are visible. In today's increasingly multicultural milieu, the legal and ethical rights of Canada's bisexual, gay, lesbian, trans-identified, two-spirited (BGLTT), queer, and questioning youth, often referred to as an invisible minority, to access safe and inclusive educational environments is challenged every day. Explicit and implicit censorship and a culture of apathy towards name-calling, bullying, intimidation and other forms of aggression are deeply entrenched, systemic concerns in our schools and larger society.


In the first class of my undergraduate "Literature for Adolescents" course, it was my practice to have these future teachers anonymously write for 10 minutes on the topic, "Recollections of Adolescence." I had a number of purposes in asking for their memories. In part, I wanted them to get in touch with that period of life which is so central to the contents of YA literature. The only identifier I asked for was the writer's gender. I recall one male who wrote at length about how painful it was to be a gay adolescent in a public school. If the contents of Challenging Silence, Challenging Censorship had been available to his teachers (and used by them), possibly his piece for me would have been quite different. While the field of education is quite glib about using phrases like "teaching the 'whole' child," too often that "wholeness" does not always extend to the child's/adolescent's sexuality (or that of her/his parents/guardians).

     Readers who first encounter this book only via its short title may unfortunately misinterpret the volume's contents; however, the work's subtitle completely fulfills its clarification role. Alvin Schrader and Kristopher Wells bring impressive credentials to this work which they describe as being "designed as a professional and practical resource to help educational leaders and policymakers within K-12 teaching (teachers, administrators, counselors, and teacher librarians) together with public librarians and other community stakeholders, to learn more about how they can take action to challenge and positively change the educational conditions and social climate for BGLTT youth and children from same-gender parented families."

      The authors also point out that Challenging Silence, Challenging Censorship is "the first [book] of its kind to bring together practical strategies, comprehensive research, legislation and an ethical framework for social justice advocacy and inclusive action designed explicitly for school and public librarians."

      Following a two-page "Glossary of BGLTT Terms" and an "Introduction: Guiding Beliefs and Core Values of Librarians and Educators," the book's contents are divided into two major parts and a pair of appendices, plus "References" and "End Notes."

      Part I is entitled "Ethical and Legislative Framework for Social Justice Advocacy in Schools and Libraries." In this section, the authors "introduce a legislative, policy and ethical framework for social justice advocacy that can be utilized by teacher and public librarians to improve the social climate and everyday experiences of BGLTT youth." Using research-based evidence, the 24 pages of Part I frame the current situation regarding the presence (actually, the absence) of BGLTT materials and reference services to BGLTT youth in school and public libraries. Among the barriers to building inclusive library collections which the authors identify is that of censorship during the selection process. Fueled by concerns about community values or guided by the selector's own value structure, such silent censorship results in few BGLTT materials appearing on library shelves. Libraries' use of computer filtering programs has also served to restrict access to on-line information sources for BGLTT youth. Having established what is, the authors turn to what should be via "A Guide for Action in Library Policy and Practice." Part II consists of eight "Selected BGLTT Educational Resource List[s]." The authors note that, since other annotated bibliographies and resource lists already exist, they have focused more on "newer and more recently published Canadian works that merit inclusion in school and public library collections." Canadian titles are identified with an asterisk. To update Part II, "as new resources are published and reviewed, an updated bibliography will be made available on the CTF Web site" [www.ctf-fce.ca]. "Elementary/Primary Picture Books" offers 26 annotated titles while "Junior and Senior High/Young Adult Readers" provides 40 works of fiction and nonfiction. Seventeen videos, some also available in DVD format, can be found in "Educational Videos," a bibliography which could have benefitted from additional detail regarding intended viewing audiences. Almost five dozen books and articles are identified in "Professional Resources." Hopefully, the authors will uses the CTF website to break this listing into more user-friendly subsections as its scope is presently very wide and includes everything from biographical pieces to annotated bibliographies to guidebooks on creating gay friendly school environments. Eight items make up "Policy Development" while four are listed under "Curriculum Development" and 16 in "Censorship and Educational Texts." Part II concludes with the identification of 20 "Canadian BGLTT Education-Related Web sites."

      The first appendix, one-page in length, is a "Bisexual. Gay, Lesbian, Trans-Identified and Two-Spirited Students' Charter of Rights & Freedoms" while the second appendix, three pages in length, is "Library Service and Collective Strategies for Supporting BGLTT Communities." This latter appendix actually summarizes the more detailed discussion which appears in the concluding portion of Part I.

      Copies of Challenging Silence, Challenging Censorship should be in every school and public library system in Canada with the contents of Part I forming the basis of a system-wide professional development activity for all staff. Similarly, the book's contents need to be incorporated into the curricula of the preservice education programs for teachers and librarians.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson, who lives in Winnipeg, MB, is CM's editor.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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