This week I received an email from a librarian asking for assistance. Here is the content of her email:
We have a student who is a Jehovah Witness. Her language arts teacher came to see me today and told me that her parents have objected to just about every novel/short story that they are doing. I’m looking for recommendations for YA books that would be appropriate for a Jehovah Witness. From what I can tell, that means no profanity, sex, witches, spirits, etc. Any thoughts? I’d appreciate the help!!
After thinking for a few minutes I decided to go straight to the source. I found the jw.org site and called the number I found there. I told the woman who answered the phone that I was trying to assist a librarian and teacher in providing reading material for a student who was Jehovah Witness that would not be in conflict with her religious beliefs but also meet the curricular objectives of her class. She seemed a bit wary, put me on hold and then I found I had been transferred to a different person. I repeated what I had said earlier only to be transferred five more times. Finally I was connected with a man who was willing to try and answer my question but offered no concrete book title suggestions.
That is when I turned to who I should have turned to in the first place, a former student who is also Jehovah Witness. Having worked in education for 23 years I have built connections with amazing students who are now equally amazing adults, moms, dads, teachers, etc. This particular student held morning meetings before school in my library for the other Jehovah Witness students in the school. He use to also hang out in the library whenever he could. He is also a master at sign language and would practice in the library by signing everything I said. I found it fascinating to have my own personal interpreter. Anyway..... He asked some specific questions about the course and the student. Turns out the course was an 8th grade language arts class and the teacher was having her students explore various genres throughout the year. The first genre was horror. Since Jehovah Witnesses cannot read anything with witches, sorcery, magic, spirits, etc., finding a horror book to read was indeed proving to be difficult but not for my friend. Here is what he suggested:
Is this to say that as an educator you can't have your own personal religious or political beliefs? No. But these beliefs have no place in the classroom or on social media where you represent your school because when you do it HURTS KIDS. I know because it HURT ME.