Library won't pull 'child abuse manual'

Mandy Sherring with children Sam, 3, and Jed, 5, outside Auckland’s Central City Library.
Shane Cowlishaw/Fairfax NZ

Mandy Sherring with children Sam, 3, and Jed, 5, outside Auckland’s Central City Library.

A parenting book describing how to spank and whip a child into submission has sparked a backlash against Auckland Libraries.

"For the under one-year-old child, a small, ten to twelve-inch-long, willowy branch . . . is sufficient," Michael and Debi Pearl explain in To Train Up a Child.

A petition to remove the "manual on how to abuse your child" from the shelves has attracted nearly 2000 signatures this week.

Auckland mother Eileen Joy, who started the petition to ban the book, said ratepayers had paid for this "abhorrent book" to be in the library.

"It's a manual on how to abuse your child," she said. "I don't think it should be on the Auckland Libraries system."

The controversial evangelical Christian book directs parents on what size tool to use to beat their child, ranging from a branch to a belt, according to age.

"If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he has surrendered," the husband and wife authors advise.

The book has been linked to three children's deaths overseas after the parents took advice from the authors' instructions.

Four-year-old Sean Paddock, whose mother in North Carolina had turned to the Pearls' teachings, died from suffocation after being wrapped tightly in a blanket.

In 2010, Lydia Schatz died after being beaten, three years after arriving in California from Liberia.

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The following year, another adoptee, 13-year-old Hana Williams, died from hypothermia and malnutrition after being left in the backyard in a small town in Washington state.

Investigators said the parents had followed advice from To Train Up a Child, a copy of which was reportedly found in their homes. All three children were reportedly beaten with a plastic plumbing tube similar to that recommended by the Pearls.

Then, just a few months ago, an American football player admitted to reckless assault after he injured his 4-year-old son in discipline similar to that outlined in the book. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson repeatedly hit his son with a tree branch, causing cuts and bruises to the child's legs.

The high-profile player said he was disciplined the same way as a child.

Joy said the public library should not be providing a book that promotes violence against children.

"This is not about a tap on the hands. This is abuse."

The authors claim they can shame and silence any naughty child into obedience within a few days.

"It sounds like breaking your child," Joy said.

The innocuous cover, of a young boy holding his father's hand, meant parents would pick it up without realising the content, she said.

But Auckland Libraries has stood by its decision to include the book in its collection.

The book was purchased three years ago as a response to a customer request and has been borrowed 10 times since 2012.

Regional collections manager Louise LaHatte said it was only within the last weeks that a customer complained and asked for the book to be removed.

In a statement, she acknowledged the book was divisive and some people might find it offensive, but said Auckland Libraries was committed to its policy on the freedom to access information.

"The library will not suppress or remove material on the grounds that it gives offence," she said.

There are currently two customers waiting to borrow the book.

To Train Up a Child is not banned or restricted by New Zealand's Office of Film and Literature Classification.

The book has been linked to three deaths overseas where the convicted parents took advice from the book.

This led to calls to ban the book from overseas shelves and online stores. Petitions to pull the book from shelves attracted more than 100,000 signatures in the United Kingdom and United States.

Amazon has refused to remove the book from its store.


One library user, Mandy Sherring who is mum to boys Jed, 5, and Sam, 3, said she had never heard of To Train Up a Child but, after reading some quotes from the book, was quick to conclude it should be removed from the shelves.

"I would probably say it shouldn't be in the library, but whether I would sign a petition or not, I'm not sure," she said. "I don't think it's appropriate for our times and given the issues with family violence in New Zealand."

Sherring said she understood the argument of free speech but if a sizeable number of people were offended by the book, she thought the library should remove it. 

 - Sunday Star Times


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