Book scrutinized for being explicit

Published: Friday, January 14, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 13, 2005 at 11:12 p.m.
LIVE OAK - Questions about where babies come from are questions that even the most self-assured parents struggle to answer when talking with their children.
A book that tries to explain the process to youngsters is being scrutinized in Suwannee County, a year after similar concerns were raised in Alachua County.
The book, "Mommy Laid An Egg," was written and illustrated by Babette Cole of England and won an LA Parent Magazine Book Award. Using stick figures, children in the book explain to their sometimes blushing parents how moms and dads get together to make babies, and then how babies are born.
The book is suggested for children ages 4 to 8.
Beverly Becker, associate director for the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom in Chicago, said Cole's book has been challenged at least once before - in 1998 in Missouri.
"Sex education books are always controversial," Becker said. "(The American Library Association) strongly believes in intellectual freedom and that restricting access is a barrier to intellectual freedom. So, if an individual parent doesn't want their kids to read a specific book, that is best addressed between parent and child.
"Libraries are not enforcers for families. The only way to know if a book is right for your child is to look at it for yourself and decide."
The association does recommend that all libraries have a system in place for dealing with challenged books and then follow the policy when a challenge arises.
"If you already have a procedure in place, then a decision on how to proceed is not being made in heated, emotional situations and libraries can focus on following the procedure," Becker said.
In Suwannee County, Jennifer Jernigan of Live Oak asked that library officials remove it from the young children's section of the library and shelve it elsewhere because she viewed it as too explicit for young children. Jernigan could not be reached for comment.
A year ago a similar concern was raised in Alachua County.
"When we had a comment from a patron on this title last year, we dealt with it at a staff level," said Linda Boyles, the Alachua County Headquarters patron services coordinator. "This type of situation happens once a year, if that. In this situation, the patron seemed to understand our policy."
Boyles said the Cole book is a nonfiction, sex education book and shelved with other books on similar topics, not in a browsing collection of children's books.
Suwannee River Regional Library Director Danny Hales said he reviewed Jernigan's concern and determined that the book was appropriately shelved. Jernigan disagreed, and the matter was turned over to a committee of residents appointed by the County Commission, which is now reviewing the book.
Under the Suwannee County library policy, the Cole book was shelved as juvenile, nonfiction and Jernigan asked that it be moved to the young adult, nonfiction collection, which Hales said was across the library from the juvenile nonfiction books.
"I reviewed the book and felt it was fine in juvenile nonfiction," Hales said. "We usually only have one or two concerns (about our collection) raised each year and this is the first time that the standing committee has been used."
Karen Voyles can be reached at (352) 486-5058 or

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