Thursday, September 28, 2006

Banned Book Week

It's Banned Book Week - a week during which the ALA tries to raise awareness of books that have been challenged, mainly in libraries and schools.

Now banning books conjures up images of book burning and oppresive regimes.

And book banning is bad.

Okay - that said - this is really about books that parents or community members (usually a small group) don't want their children - or any children to have access to. Focus on the Family protests that calling this banning books is going too far.

But not allowing access to anyone because of a personal problem with something, is not right. No one is forcing you to read a certain book.

Ah - but what about when they are? Some books that are challenged are on required reading lists. If a parent thinks that a book is too mature for their ninth grader, do they get to have a say? Saying "I don't want my child to have to read this" and saying "I don't want my child or any child to have access to this" are two different things.

Unfortunately those two things tend to get lumped together - making it so that some people can point to extreme examples of children being required to read books that have extremely mature content - and others to say that people are trying to ban Clifford the Big Red Dog.

It's really two different arguments. Parents of elementary school children and young teens should have some say in what their children are reading. It's part of being a responsible parent. And notice I say "their children" and "some say". Notice I also said "young teens", I think older teens should be allowed to make their own decisions without interference.

However people don't have a right to say "I don't like this - no one should be allowed to read it."

There are a lot of different views of the world, and a lot of different experiences people have had. Reading about them is one way for our children, and ourselves to learn about the world. If you start restricting what can be read, you restrict what can be learned.

So celebrate banned book week - by reading a book. Any book - and be glad you have the right to.


Snashin said...

Banned books and book burning story - See for the full story on what originally made news on The DrudgeReport about book burning in Minot, ND

Nancy said...

Thanks for this post. You've captured the thoughts that have troubled me about this issue. In the cases of required reading in school, it's just not a black-white issue, in my opinion.

Liz B said...

Good post!

Parents should always have the last say; they can and do go thru a child's bookpile, saying yes, yes, no. And (at least at my library) a parent needs to sign a kid's library card application (and usually the parent is the one who holds onto that card, so the parent is there for check outs.)

As for books & school libraries, the parents can do the same thing regarding what a child has brought home. "No, we don't know read books about witches" (and since this is something the kid knows, that's a parent/kid issue as to why the kid still tries to read Harry Potter.)

And while some kids rebelliously read what Mom/Dad say no to, others are fine with it. For each time who reads the forbidden book, there's the teen who says no, that's not the type of stuff I read.

I do tend to remind parents with younger children that graphic novels in the YA section are indeed for YAs and are too old for their kids. Parents see the SpiderMan on the cover and don't know that these are not books for kids.

I think the best thing is to have a knowledgeable librarian with the time to assist kids in picking out books that are best for them, and who are buying books that work best for their community, which means the entire community.

Re school lists: most schools have policies for required reading that allow a child to opt out of a title and read an acceptable substitute in its place.