Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Banning

Sunday (September 30) marks the beginning of Banned Books Week. According to the American Library Association (ALA), Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.


TOP TEN FREQUENTLY CHALLENGED BOOKS in 2011 (ALA)

1)      ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
2)      The Color of Earth (series) by Kim Dong Hwa
Reasons: nudity, sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
3)      The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
4)      My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
5)      The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
6)      Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
7)      Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
8)      What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
9)      Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
10)  To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Reasons: offensive language; racism

Did your jaw drop to your laptop on any of those?

Other books challenged in previous years…

Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chobsky
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
Forever, by Judy Blume
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

and, wait for it…

Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling

You can find more here, here, and here. Oh, and here.

To me, book banning makes as much sense as wings on a sow. Or as replacement ref calls in the NFL. Or as Fifty Shades on the NYT Bestseller list. Okay, you get it - it DOESN’T make sense. At. All.

You see, I have a thirteen-year old daughter who reads just as much if not more than I do. We share books, but there are certain YA books that she will definitely wait to read. Is it because I want them banned? NO. It’s because she’s not ready to handle some of the older YA content. But one day she will be. And I want her to have accessibility to these books. She’ll read them. I’ll encourage her to read them. And hopefully mother/daughter discourse will ensue.

There are so many valuable, wonderful, amazing books out there for teens—ones many should read. Just because of the slight explicit content in Thirteen Reasons Why should a library ban a book that I believe should be a required read for every freshman in high school? Just because teenagers who’ve only known each other for a week have sex, should Twenty Boy Summer be banned reading? Should candid discussions of sex be the reason Shut Out never makes it to a high school’s library shelf?

If you don’t like the content in a book, don’t read it. Parents, if you’re concerned with what your kid’s reading, then read with them. And while you’re at it, make sure you monitor every movie and television show and YouTube video and Xbox game and Facebook status . But don’t get a book banned from a library that could save another kid’s life. Like Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. Or Ellen Hopkins' Crank.

But these are just my thoughts on book banning.

Or are they?

*cue other operative views*

ALEXANDRA: My thoughts on banning books: it's stupid. A book itself is not dangerous. What people do with their own interpretation is what's potentially "dangerous," and you can't control that no matter how many books you ban. So why cut people off from the opportunity for new knowledge and new understanding?

MATT: As a reader (and a parent) banning books is ridiculous. It's really stupid, because it doesn't work. Much like D.A.R.E. and abstinence based sex education, all it does is introduce books to kids they probably wouldn't have heard of otherwise.

As a writer (and yes, I know this is cynical), I pray that someday someone will try to ban a book I've written. I'm not trying to make light of authors who've had their books challenged, because I realize it must hurt, but I honestly do believe that having small minded people challenge something that makes them uncomfortable means that more open-minded people will hear of it.

JESSICA: As a teacher, I absolutely think that parents should pay attention to what their children are reading. If there is something they feel their child isn't ready to handle, then they should absolutely take it out of their child's personal library and replace it with something they feel is more appropriate. However, it is never okay for one parent to take it upon themselves to make that decision for ALL parents and students in a public library or classroom.

COPIL: I support book banning. Do it all the time. Just the other day I "banned" Fifty Shades of Grey from my 7 yr old's TBR pile. Of course, I'm his dad. So unless you're mine, STEP THE @#$*! OFF!!

KATY: Books are often challenged by people and groups who, at their core, have good intentions: To protect children from explicit and/or difficult material. The problem is, "explicit" and "difficult" are very vague, very subjective terms. I think it's the job of a parent to define those terms as they see fit for THEIR child(ren). Mothers and fathers have every right to keep their kids from reading material they deem inappropriate. Librarians, teachers, religious organizations, and politicians do not. 

SARA: While I do believe there are some books with content not appropriate for some children of some ages, I don't think banning is the answer at all. Because notice how vague that first sentence was? Yeah. Some books may not be right for some kids of some ages. There are no clear boundaries, so one lumping ban is completely pointless. One thirteen-year-old may be able to handle the nature of a YA that another sixteen-year-old can't. Or, probably in more cases, the opposite will be true. The thing is, maturity levels vary so widely. But you know who, or actually what, can't make that determination? Some all-encompassing ban. Teens know what they can handle. As do (or should) their parents. So leave decisions about books right there. Between teens and their parents. 

Yes. THAT.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to spend some serious time next week reading some banned books. And I hope you will too.

What are your thoughts on book banning?



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