Children of divorce struggle with one set of textbooks

Claire Gilliland

CTextbooks: the source of many problems for high school students.  Whether it’s carrying them to school or using them for homework, students often blame their inability to complete assignments on their textbooks — but for students whose parents are divorced or separated, this excuse is perhaps more legitimate.

“In my World History class, I have a paper to write, but I don’t have a book,” sophomore Maurissa Spiller said.

“Sometimes I leave my textbooks at my mom’s house and then I need them at my dad’s house so I have to go all the way over there and grab them,” sophomore Caitlynn Doucette said.

Students like Doucette and Spiller, whose parents are divorced or separated, often have a harder time than others with textbook-related work because they have to strategize a way to carry them between separate households.  If they leave textbooks at one parent’s house, they either have to convince a parent to drive them to go get them, or just not do their schoolwork.

Parents may be busy or may not always be willing to cooperate or may refuse to drive students to pick up textbooks at the other parent’s house.

“Sometimes they will help, but my dad lives in Tracy, so not a lot, unless it has to do with an essay or a big exam,” Spiller said.

To solve this problem, students with divorced or separated parents could be issued two sets of textbooks so that they could keep one set of textbooks at each house.

“It would be easier because then I wouldn’t have to commute to each house to grab my textbooks,” Doucette said.  “I would have a textbook at one house and I could keep it at that house.”

But is this solution really feasible?

“We don’t have enough textbooks for that ,” math teacher Lou Vang said.  “We don’t even have enough for a class set, so, although that would be nice for them to have to leave one at both parents’ house, we just don’t have the resources for that.”

Vang assigns textbook problems for homework daily, and has had students mention to her that they left their textbooks at the wrong parent’s house.  To provide two sets of textbooks for students like Vang’s, the library would need more funding than is currently available.

If students provide a note from a parent asking to check out extra copies of textbooks, they would be allowed to until all the textbooks were gone.  In Lodi Unified School District, however, all high schools have to share textbooks.

“There’s a pool of textbooks for all the high schools to share; they don’t just belong to Bear Creek,” teacher-librarian Candy Byrd said.  Bird says that there aren’t enough textbooks to give two sets to each high school student with divorced or separated parents in the district.

Providing two sets of textbooks to each student with divorced parents in the school district could also increase the number of lost books at the end of each year.

“I [checked out two sets of textbooks] my freshman year, and then I lost my Geometry book,” Spiller said.  “I mean, it’s a good idea, but for the students who aren’t as responsible, it’s kind of hard.”

“The more books you have, the more susceptible to getting lost they are,” Byrd said.  At the end of each school year, there are between 200 and 350 textbooks either lost or still at students’ houses.  Replacement textbooks cost between $5,000 and $20,000 each year, especially since textbooks are getting more expensive, according Byrd.

At the end of the year, the World History textbooks alone still checked out — 29, at $78 each — added up to $2,262.  There are $1,920 worth of Earth Science textbooks still checked out; $1,541 worth of Language 10 textbooks; and $1,566 worth of Language 9 textbooks.  These numbers could increase significantly if all students with divorced parents were given two sets of textbooks.

Some teachers have class copies of textbooks, so students can come to their classes and use them for homework during tutorial after school.   Vang herself allows students to come after school three days a week and either work on their homework using class copies of textbooks, or take pictures of the problems to look at later.