There is a lot of talk this week around the blogosphere about Banned Books Week.
I think most rational people can agree that banning books is bad. When a government controls - in any way - the information available to it's people - it's a bad thing.
As far as I know, in this country, we do not have an issue of government censorship of books.
Most often then, when people talk about Banned Books, they are referring to books that individuals or groups of individuals have requested be removed from libraries.
Quite rightly this raises a concern. One person, or even a small group of people, should not regulate what other people have access to. Just because someone disagrees with a book shouldn't mean that I don't get to read it. I have my own opinions about things and deserve the right to make my own judgments. As does everyone else.
Now - quite often it seems - that books are being challenged not in the public library - but in a school library. And while it also holds true for children that they should be entitled to make their own decisions about things - not all books are appropriate for all children all the time. Has a book with sexually explicit themes found its way onto a K-5 library? If so, is it wrong for someone to request the book be removed - as long as it is still available in the older grades? (I have great respect for school librarians and all librarians for that matter, and think they do a great job of keeping their collections geared to the appropriate level, so I think this would be a very rare occurrence.)
Which brings me to my last point. Often on these lists of banned books are books that have been challenged - and henceforth removed from a 'required reading list'. I'm going to go out on a limb here - but telling someone you don't 'have' to read it is not the same as telling someone they 'may not' read it. It's not banning a book. The book is still available for people to read. It's still available for those students to read. They are just not required to do so.
Perhaps I feel strongly about this because last year, in fifth grade, my daughter had two novels (of many) she read for her advance language arts class that were clearly more appropriate for upper middle school or high school students. Both of the books labeled by Publisher's Weekly for ages 12 and up.
Now these students were reading at a more advanced level, it's true, but they were still only fifth graders with fifth grade sensibilities. And I think the teacher did them a disservice by including those books as part of her curriculum.
If, in two years when my son is in the same class, those books are still part of the curriculum, I may very well question their inclusion. There are hundreds of wonderful books that advanced readers in fifth grade could enjoy - why burden them with stories that include rape, and murder?
So will I be among the book banners if I challenge these two books*? I would never say the children may not read them. I would never say they should be unavailable to them. I would say, I don't think you should make them read these books. Not at this age.
Book banning is serious. It's horrible. It is a way of keeping people ignorant. But by including books that have been "challenged" and removed from "required reading lists" on the list of "banned books" I think people do the issue a disservice, they water down the issue.
And that is my rant for today.
*and no, I won't identify the two books.