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Removal of children's titles from libraries not first time

Two petitions started for reinstating three banned books reported earlier

Published on Jul 10, 2014 6:06 AM
The Sengkang public library. The Straits Times has learnt that there were at least three more children's books that were also recently banned. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

The three books that were pulled by the National Library Board (NLB) from its shelves for not being "pro-family" were not the only ones that were removed.

The Straits Times has learnt that there were at least three more children's books that were also recently banned. Written by American author Robie H. Harris, they have to do with sex education and are meant for children aged four and above.

A source told The Straits Times that those books were removed in April after e-mail complaints from the public. When contacted, NLB declined to comment, saying it will respond today at a press conference.

It was reported yesterday that the board had yanked three children's titles, which featured same-sex couples, from its collection after complaints from some members of the public that they were not "pro-family".

At least two online petitions have since been started calling for the books to be reinstated.

Student Lim Jialiang, 23, started one with local writer Ng Yi-Sheng, 33, and Ms Liyan Chen, 31, a PhD student from the National University of Singapore. In their petition, the trio said: "The books above help to broach a highly sensitive subject to children, allowing them to understand that there are different versions of what it means to be a 'family'."

Mr Lim told The Straits Times yesterday he felt that NLB was taking "many steps backwards" when it removed those books.

"I understand that the books are offensive to some, but offence is never good grounds for censorship. One can simply choose... not to borrow the books," he said. The petition had garnered 3,100 signatures as of 11pm yesterday.

A separate online petition on petition platform also called on NLB to reinstate the removed titles. It had 1,158 supporters as of 11pm yesterday.

But members of the open Facebook group "We are against Pinkdot in Singapore" cheered the move, and called on fellow group members to write to NLB to commend its pro-family position.

Facebook user Carrie Yu, who wrote in the group to support NLB's decision, said in an e-mail to The Straits Times: "As responsible adults, we owe it to children to teach them the value of family, and how every child needs a father and a mother.

"To safeguard the moral values of the future generation of our nation, we should protect children from unwholesome influences."

Dr Khoo Kim Choo, who has 30 years of experience in the early childhood field, said it is important to teach pre-schoolers about sex and their body. "Sex is a natural process, and shouldn't be seen as dirty or bad," she said, adding that children that age often question where they came from.

"But children should read such sex education books with their parents or teachers or an adult," said the pre-school operator.

But it may be too early to discuss homosexuality with young children, said Dr Khoo.

Madam Wong Li Wah, 36, who has a five-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter, said it is important for parents to talk to their children about sex and sexual orientation, as they have to face realities.

While she has not come across children's books discussing homosexuals in the library, "if my children pick up a book like that, I hope to be able to sit them down and talk about it because I'll have to face it sooner or later as a parent."


Not right forum for discussion

Not NLB’s role to promote ideology

Background story

Books on sex education removed from library shelves


A book about girls, boys, babies, bodies, families and friends by Robie H. Harris

Meant for children aged four and above, this book tells children about the differences between girls and boys. It has a page featuring drawings of an unclothed boy and girl, with their body parts, such as the vulva and the penis, labelled.

It discusses family types, including families with multiple children, families with a mother and father, and families with two mothers or two fathers.

The book also explains the baby-making process as "a special kind of loving" where the "man's penis goes inside the woman's vagina".


A book about eggs, sperm, birth, babies and families by Robie H. Harris

Meant for children aged seven and above, this book goes into greater details about the pregnancy process, and explains in a comic strip how the sperm and egg meet.

It also talks about love among family members and friends, and homosexual love. It explains miscarriages, abortions and adoptions as well.

The book says that grown-ups may have sex even when they are not intending to have a baby "because it can feel so good to be so close to each other".


A book about changing bodies, growing up, sex and sexual health by Robie H. Harris

Written for children aged 10 and above, this book discusses sex more broadly than the previous two books.

It talks about sexual desires, sexual intercourse, being straight and being gay. It has a chapter describing masturbation as "perfectly normal". The book discusses how people can make decisions to abstain from sex or use birth control.

Abortion is also included in a chapter, as well as sexually transmitted diseases and how children can get information and stay safe on the Internet