Book prize lets down the young

Editorial – NZ Herald 30 June 2013
Children are exposed to a great deal of explicit sexual material these days. As they come through puberty and beyond, they are liable to come across so much of it on the internet that those who would like to bring a better influence to bear might despair.

They should not give up. There are more weapons in the fight than heavy-handed bans and censorship that never worked, even before pornography was as pervasive as it is now. The best weapon is a book.

Good, well-written stories that go to the heart of a reader and touch the truth of any human experience, including sex, can help a young mind rise above smut. That is why it is a worry when a national award for children’s books is given to a novel that needs to carry a warning.

Some booksellers, we report today, are refusing to display Into the River by Ted Dawe, which took top prize in the recent New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. One explained that it was “unnecessarily graphic” and contained themes the bookseller considered inappropriate for young teenagers.

It contains obscenities and shock references that worthwhile literature does not need. We can only wonder what the judges were thinking, or how much worse the other entries could have been.
…..Teachers and school librarians do teenagers a disservice when they point them towards books that need to shock to capture their interest. Teenagers are not shocked by the subject matter, of course. They can see worse without going to much trouble.