GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – The Board of Trustees for Greenville County Schools wants to petition Congress for a book rating system. Instead of rating by reading level, they want books rated for age appropriateness.
Trustees are asking legislators to request that publishing companies give them a rating on books that come into their district.
A proposed letter to lawmakers will be a topic at an advocacy committee meeting on Tuesday.
“One of the board members, Chuck Saylors, brought a proposal to the committee of the whole meeting a couple of weeks ago asking us to look at sending a resolution or a letter to our legislators or delegation in Washington to look at maybe proposing some type of rating system like they have on movies and games, video games and such like that.” said board chairman Roger Meek. “So that parents would have a much easier way at looking at books and see how they are rated to make sure that they are age-appropriate.”
According to the proposed letter, across the 100 schools and centers within Greenville County, the district said millions of dollars are spent on books.
“Right now, we buy a whole lot of books, but that may not be what we receive. We may receive something that is similar to that book that we ordered. If they run out, don’t have it, then they will send another,” Meek said.
The board, in the letter which they want to send to U.S. Senators and Congress, states school personnel may not have the opportunity to review each text before they are placed on media centers or classroom shelves.
“It would be very helpful for us because our media specialists are not able to look at every book, read every book,” Meek said.
The proposed letter also states that books are rated based on the reading ability needed to comprehend the text, and not by any measure of the age-appropriateness.
“The way they do it now, they sort of rate the books on the skill that the child. Whether they can read or not,” Meek said.
To prevent parents and teachers from being blindsided by what’s in books, some believe the rating system will help.
“Well it’s very important so the parents that want to look at these books, would be able to look at a glance and know rather they want their children to be reading this book. Media specialists can look at the book, just open the cover,” Meek said.
“So, this should put it so that–just like movies have a T on it for teen, parents can look at it and see if there is going to be violence and language in that,” Meek said.
“And if they can do the same with books, then it will make it a whole lot easier for the libraries to look at these books,” Meek said.
Amanda McDougald-Scott doesn’t feel the same.
“As far as I know, parents that I know and are friends with, and speak with regularly are way more worried about book banning than they are about what content are in these books,” McDougald-Scott said.
“Children need to be taught about all different ways of thinking, and that’s the only way people can decide what they do think and how they feel if they are exposed to different ways of thinking,” McDougald-Scott said.
McDougald-Scott will have a child in the district next year.
“So, to cut that off and not allow it, first of all is fruitless. It’s just inevitable that if you denied a child access to information and knowledge, a motivated child is going to find out anyway. So, it seems to be much more productive and effective to focus on environments in which these new ideas and thoughts can be explored in a positive way, instead of censoring them,” McDougald-Scott said.
Meek said they hope other districts across the nation will also jump on the rating bandwagon.
“We feel like if we have enough pressure, support from all over the U.S., that publishers will listen,” Meek said.
“And if there is a scale that the publishing companies can get on board with, then it would make it much easier for us here in Greenville County and all over the United States,” Meek said.
McDougald-Scott said that she feels like the focus should be placed on other issues.
“I would like to see the school board focus on things that are more pressing,” McDougald-Scott said.
Meek said if the proposed letter comes out of the Advocacy Committee with a favorable vote, then it will go to the full board for discussion and vote at the board meeting on Tuesday night.
He said if it passes, they will send it to U.S. Senators and Congressmen.
Meek also said the district has a review committee which takes a look at any book a parent feels is inappropriate.