It’s Banned Books Week! Sponsored by the ALA and other groups, this annual event celebrates the “freedom to read.” Come join in with the Banned Books Blog Party hosted by hannahgivens at Things Matter.
The most frequently challenged books of the past year (2013) were:
- Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
- The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
- Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
- The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
- A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
- Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
- Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
- Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence
I have actually only read one book on this list: The Hunger Games. Looking at the list of top challenges from 2000-2009 (which includes my high school years), however, I have read many more. I have written previously about how #23 The Giver by Lois Lowry affected me when I read it in the 6th grade. One thing it did for me was open my imagination to worlds of science fiction, a gift I am grateful for today as a writer and scientist.
It’s strange to me that anyone would want to put a blanket ban on a book, rather than individually assessing a students’s maturity and reading level, and using a book’s themes and concepts to start an open conversation about difficult ideas. Exposure to these ideas is part of growing up.
Just last month I read a blog post by author Shannon Hale relating a note from a school librarian whose district wanted to remove Hale’s Books of Bayern series from elementary library shelves. No one had complained about any of the books. It seems that the fact that the Bayern series is typically reviewed as being for “Grade 6 and up” was construed by the district to mean that the books were therefore not appropriate for anyone younger.
The Bayern books are wonderful and have no objectionable content. I would have loved them in upper elementary school. Rather than limiting students, shouldn’t we be encouraging them to read more advanced books? The idea that education is one-size-fits-all can’t be beneficial for our children. It wasn’t for me. I was lucky that my elementary teachers (and my parents) let me read books from higher grades’ summer reading lists.
Every book may not be appropriate for every child (or adult). But that decision should be made on an individual basis and should involve the reader as well as his parents and the relevant teacher. Blanket bans are not the answer.