Read Banned Books!

September 30-October 6, 1012 is Banned Books Week!  This year marks its 30th anniversary.

The most frequently challenged books of 2011 (according to the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom):

  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

Interestingly, the number of total challenges to books has been going down in recent years.  There were only 326 recorded challenges in 2011, compared to 513 in 2008 and 448 in 2001 for example.

I have only read 3 of the books on 2011’s top ten list: Hunger Games, Brave New World, and To Kill a Mockingbird.  And I absolutely believe that these are books that today’s high schoolers (or even middle schoolers, for To Kill a Mockingbird) need to be reading.

I have read lots more of the books on the Top 100 list of challenges in the past decade. I would like to give a special shout out to #23: The Giver by Lois Lowry.  All you fans of the current dystopian trend should check this one out.  I first read this book in the sixth grade, and looking back, it was one of several I read that year that changed my life.

For an adult, this book might not be revolutionary, but it introduced 12-year-old me to some very important ideas about how life should be lived: order vs. freedom, true pleasure AND pain vs. neither one.  And the scifi aspects continue to intrigue me.  How, biologically, would you make a pill to stave of puberty?  Could there be some other dimension to our world that we cannot experience, like the people of Jonas’s world can’t experience color?  If so, what would it be?  Maybe some kind of vibration, or a whole other dimension of space, or a psychic connection.

I even love the ambiguous ending of the book.  (Although since I read it, the author has produced 2 sequels, and the third, called Son, will be out presently.  I found the first 2 sequels sub-par, but I’ll read Son anyway.)

Not every book is appropriate for every child, and just because someone is able to read a book doesn’t mean they should.  Ideas can be dangerous as well as inspiring.  But I firmly believe that the answer is not blanket censorship or banning; the answer is guidance.  A parent should be able to say “My kid is not ready for this book” without affecting the other kids who are ready.  Parents and teachers should be having discussions about difficult ideas in books, putting things in historical context when necessary and helping kids analyze exactly how the book portrays an objectionable event like infanticide or drug use.  You cannot shield your kids forever, but you can help them deal with the tough stuff, even before it happens in real life.

If you would like to display your love of reading banned books, you can buy this poster from the ALA.  You can also buy many different “READ” posters with celebrities and book characters, like you see in your local library.  (Yes, I definitely own at least 3 of these.  I am a librarian’s daughter.)

4 thoughts on “Read Banned Books!

  1. dshess October 8, 2012 / 10:41 pm

    I always thought that if a book was banned it would make me (and many others) really, really want to read it. I remember when I taught The Giver I used to tell my students that it was on the banned book list to get them interested:)


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