Banned Book Week starts September 26th

Filed under: Big Kids, Tweens, Teens, Day Care & Education, Religion & Spirituality

banned book postersWhen I was a sophomore in high school, my 70-year-old literature teacher sat down on the edge of her desk, curled her fingers -- ruined by years of arthritis -- together and stared at us all. Then she swore -- one very bad word (to us), very loud and clear. We all nearly fell out of our seats. Then she said it again, and again, and again, while we looked around wildly at each other, wondering what in the world was going on.

"There," she said. "Now we've all heard it and had our giggle over it. In the book we're about to start, you'll see it several more times. It's just a word, now get over it." The book? The Catcher in the Rye.

She was right. By the time we came across that word in the book, it was fine. We were able to read, sometimes out loud, without squirming uncomfortably and get acquainted with this important book. (She also became one of the most respected teachers in our school's memory, purely for her refreshing honesty and refusal to coddle us.) But The Catcher in the Rye commonly appears on "most challenged" book lists. If book banners had gotten their way, we'd have never had a chance to read it in the first place.

September 26 starts Banned Books Week, the week when the American Library Association celebrates the freedom to read. There are some who are constantly challenging that freedom, fingering books like Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, and Phillip Pullman's The Golden Compass, simply because they don't agree with the religious content. Even the Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin, has been accused of inquiring about challenging books in her own town's public library. Captain Underpants and Harry Potter, two wildly popular series that have kids returning for more, more, more have also been challenged, as well as Shel Silverstein's beloved collection of children's poetry A Light in the Attic.

As a teacher who is married to a librarian, I know there will never be a book in this house that a child is not allowed to read (allowing for age appropriateness, of course). There may be books that we, as parents, read first, or read alongside, where we pay close attention and discuss themes and answer questions. But it's hard for me to understand how we can raise educated children who are open-minded to the world at large if we don't give them access to books and materials that challenge them.

Want to learn more? Here are the most frequently challenged books of 2007, and the most challenged books of the 21st century, What about you? Do you think there are certain books that should be banned from your public library? And would you let your child read books off the banned book list?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.