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Netizens petition against NLB removal of children's titles

There have been least two petitions making their rounds online, after the National Library Board (NLB) pulled two children's titles off the shelves on Monday, following email complaints that they were not “pro-family”.

SINGAPORE: Netizens have pushed back, after the National Library Board (NLB) pulled two children's titles off the shelves on Monday, following email complaints that they were not “pro-family”.

At least two petitions calling on the NLB to reinstate the titles have been making their rounds online. 

One of the titles is about two male penguins who become a couple and raise an egg together, while the other features a female couple trying to adopt a child.

The content of the books has raised the ire of some.

One Facebook user who lodged a complaint about them urged others in a post to not let similar children's books in the library "go under the radar".

But NLB's decision to remove the books has led some to question the kind of message being sent out.

Assoc Prof Paulin Straughan, sociologist at National University of Singapore, said: "I think we have to be very cautious how we address this issue because the important message we have to uphold always is regardless of your sexual orientation, you are an important member of our community. And you don't want to demonise or cast a deviant label on somebody who has an alternative sexual orientation.

“Of course from a parent's perspective, it's a very difficult stance to take. When we are socialising our children, we would want them to stay within the norms and values the family prescribes to… So that's where we have to be mindful, that primarily, that is the responsibility of the family."

She added that while some parents may prefer that the state's norms are in line with the message they want to send to their children, it's a no-win situation.

"You demonise homosexuality, you end up demonising real people who are in your community. And I think given that scenario, it's important for us to remain inclusive, especially when it comes to sending messages to young children," she said.

Those that oppose the NLB's decision said these books are a good way to broach sensitive subjects with children, as well as provide them with different perspectives.

Sociologists said this is a good opportunity for parents to step in to set the context so their children do not grow up with prejudices.

Parents Channel NewsAsia spoke to said the onus is on them to help their kids understand issues better.

One of the parents said: "Just pulling it off the shelves is not the answer. If the parents can explain the books, it would help, but not every parent is equipped to explain such a difficult matter."

Assoc Prof Straughan said: "I don't think any parent would really want their child to end up discriminating against another human being. But the seeds are sown when they are young, and when we teach them very straightforward kind of messaging that this is right and this is wrong, there's no in-between. And they grow up believing that's the case, I think in terms of growing an inclusive society, something goes wrong there."

When contacted, NLB referred Channel NewsAsia to its original statement issued on Tuesday, where it said that it takes a pro-family and cautious approach in selecting books for children, and exercises its best judgment when it comes to assessing the contents of books.

It added that it continually reviews its children's collection.

NLB's statement also said: "We also refer to synopses, reviews and other books written by the authors. Parents can be assured that NLB is sensitive to their concerns and views, and their feedback."

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