Removal of children's titles from libraries not first time

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 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

Two petitions started for reinstating three banned books reported earlier

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 Change.org 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."

leepearl@sph.com.sg

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