So, this is the time of the month when I usually have my Contemporaries to Covet giveaway, but given the fact that it’s Banned Books Week in the U.S. I thought it was a good time to reflect on how fragile our right to choose our own reading material sometimes is.
The American Library Association has put together a wonderful timeline of books that have been banned over the past 30 years.
Some of them really surprise me. The Bridge to Terabithia? Really? I remember reading that when I was a pre-teen and weeping.
But maybe that’s why books are commonly banned. They make us feel something. Rage. Horror. Terror. Passion.
And, given the fact that most of these books are banned from schools and school libraries, it makes me wonder what we expect from our young people. Do we really want to encourage them *not* to think or to feel?
Apparently that’s the case in some schools.
So here’s the deal. I’ll buy one of these banned books (from the ALA timeline) for one person who leaves a comment here. I’ll announce the winner on the last day of Banned Books Week – Saturday, October 6th.
Just leave a comment telling me your thoughts on banned books. Is it ever justifiable to ban certain books/reading materials from libraries? Does it make a difference if it’s a school library? Have you read any of the books on the ALA’s timeline? How did they make you feel? Which of these books would you want me to buy you if you won this contest?
This giveaway is open internationally but has a $15 limit (so, if you choose a book that’s out of print and costs more than $15 used, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to choose something else).
I’m glad you’re talking about Banned Books Week, Kat. (Apologies in advance for the lengthy comment.) This is an interesting and complicated issue. Basically, I believe people should be able to write and read whatever books they want. Censorship is a subjective matter, and I’ll bet most of us disagree with banning at least some of the books on the list. Personally, I’m okay with Huckleberry Finn, and I love To Kill a Mockingbird. Surprising to see the [harmless, in my opinion] Harry Potter series on the list, but I do remember some debate over the witchcraft issue. I also read Bridge to Terabithia, in 5th grade I think, and was enlightened by it. I would be okay with these and many other “banned books” on the shelves of my children’s school library, but I would probably pitch a fit if some of the other books on that list were. Here’s why.
The censorship issue becomes complicated involving education and public funding. People might protest an exhibition of “fecal sculpture” at the city museum, for example. The artist says it’s art, the public says it’s crap. Both exercised their right to free speech. That’s not censorship, it’s popular mandate. People will support, or not, the media they want.
In education, I believe it’s important for teachers and parents to work together to decide what media is age-appropriate. Free speech crusaders seem to forget that children are frightened, disgusted or confused – not educated and certainly not enlightened – by disturbing or controversial material if they lack the emotional maturity to understand it. My U.S. History teacher showed the Civil War themed movie “Glory.” What was a meaningful patriotic experience at age 16 would have given my younger self violent nightmares and a lifelong fear of drum-and-fife music.
Do we dictate to children what they should think and feel? All the time. “That was rude! You apologize right now.” I decide what behavior is acceptable for my kids, and you could say I censor negative influences. Educators select a curriculum based on the material they deem essential, which is basically deciding for the child what he will learn. Until youth are developmentally able to govern themselves, their learning and behavior will be guided by parents and teachers. On a larger scale, society enforces laws and legislation according to a collective ethical code. (It’s against the law to steal, and we all seem to agree it should be.) Censorship in media operates under similar principles, but artistic expression is a wily variable. I don’t think any two people will agree on what should be banned from public and school libraries. Opinions evolve, people disagree, and now my heads hurts. If there’s a good way to balance censorship with free speech, I don’t know what it is. However…
My son’s 5th grade teacher recently sent a note informing the parents of her decision to study a controversial book in class. I discussed it with my son and explained why I approve. I’ve read the book, I believe he is developmentally able to handle it, and I plan to follow up with him to make sure he understands what he reads and help him put it in context. In my opinion, this is the ideal treatment of “banned books” in education.
I have a real problem with banning books. Honestly, if parents take an active role in what their child wants to read that should be enough. They can tell if the child is mature enough for the content and if it fits within the family’s moral standard. Schools and government really have no say in this as far as I’m concerned.
Count me in. Am away and computer at hotel giving me fits. Dont beleive books should be banned.
I despise any form of censorship. I wanted my children to think for themselves and question everything. Unfortunately, most schools just want them to parrot everything they say – it’s so much easier that way!! Too many people want their children to just be little mini-me’s of themselves and are intolerant of too many things – mostly for lack of understanding or unwillingness to empathize with what they are unfamiliar with or do not understand. I’ve read some of the books on the list but wish I had read them all. Some I read when I was in school. I have a few in my tbr pile. One that I would like to read is The Color Purple. And thanks so much for posting about this topic.
I don’t think anyone has the right to decide what books another person can or can not read (except for parents of minors). The way I see it, if you are a legal adult you can decide what book you want to read. Everyone has different tastes in books just like everything else. Now, there is one topic that I do not think anyone should write about (glorifying abuse of children/animals). But that is my opinion (although I am sure many people would agree with me).
Oh my gosh, I remember reading Judy Blume’s Forever book in high school and I had no idea it had been deemed as a banned book! I was (and still am) a huge fan of Judy Blume and I have several formative memories of reading her books and even talking about them with my friends at the time. In fact, some of my friends had not even heard of her books, and thanks to her writing and my feelings towards it, she gained new readers even then! Censoring is drastic and unfortunately we live in a time now where it’s become more abused in some areas and not used at all in others. I believe now, just as much as I did then, that books are our true resources for learning and experiecing things that cannot be done through the television or other media outlets. I have 2 kids now, and even though I monitor what they read, it is still my right as their parent to decide what’s appropriate or not. Government, big or small, has no place in my personal library!
I don’t think books should be banned. There are a lot that are that shouldn’t be there like the Harry Potter books, now really why was that one on the list. Gone With the Wind was banned years ago and I would love to have a copy of it now, because I lost my copy.
I feel that banning books has the opposite effect that people are looking for. Most of the people banning the books have probably never actually read them and the rest want to read what is in the banned books. I have read most of the books on the list and enjoyed them, sorry Madonna I thought Sex was just a dumb idea. It is sad when our freedom of speech is threatened, it is one of the best rights we Americans have. I would love a copy of Perks of being a Wallflower, this was after my time in school and I have heard good things about it.
I don’t think books should be banned. People should be able to read whatever they want.