Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 460
In February, 1995, three Nova Scotia parents asked the Halifax County-Bedford District School Board to remove a series of children’s horror-thriller books from the libraries and classrooms of the district’s seventy-five schools. One series particularly targeted by the parents was the “Goosebumps” horror series written by R. L. Stine, whose books have been exceptionally popular among eight- to twelve-year-olds. With overall sales in excess of 100 million copies and ongoing sales of more than a million copies a month, Stine may well be the best-selling author in the world.
Although Stine has occasionally been described as a sort of Stephen King for the young set, the titles of his books—such as The Horror at Camp Jellyjam, Let’s Get Invisible, and The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena—hint at their goofy and only mildly frightening content. His books contain no offensive language or disturbing marital problems, and his protagonists never die. Nevertheless, they have been subjected to censorship challenges in many places throughout North America. The petition of the Nova Scotian mothers to the school board, for example, claimed that books such as his encouraged children “to read books that may develop unhealthy and harmful thoughts and behavior.” They also suggested that horror books “erode away moral values like self-respect and respect for other people and property.” They accused Stine of hooking “younger children on his more subtle Goosebumps series so they’ll move on to the more graphic and perverse themes in the Fear Street series when they are teenagers.” They also argued that the school district had a policy of zero tolerance in the schools, and that the horror books violated this policy.
When a motion was made to the Halifax County-Bedford District School Board to remove the books, the board initially seemed inclined to comply. Instead, however, it referred the matter to a committee comprising supervisors, librarians, teachers, and parents. Over the next six months this committee heard evidence from parents, educators, and experts. Meanwhile, the parents’ challenge was intensively covered in Canada’s national news media. At one point, a Halifax newspaper published an entire page of letters from young readers, most of whom defended the books and expressed their outrage at adult attempts to censor their reading. Some parents also wrote letters describing the positive impact that the books had on their children’s reading habits and urging the board to stay out of the censorship business.
In September, 1995, the board accepted the advice of its special committee that the Goosebumps series was appropriate for the age and interest level of elementary school students, and that its books should remain in the libraries. The board also ruled that the Fear Street and other advanced horror series should be restricted to the junior high school libraries.
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