It's hard for me to believe that in 2012 there are still people in this country trying to get books banned. Knowledge truly is power and it is only knowledge that can fight ignorance which is a truly dangerous thing. Whatever you choose to read, whatever books librarians choose to stock their shelves with, and whatever titles teachers choose to teach their students -- we all have the freedom of choice, just as we should.
Books sometimes show us the ugliness of the world, that is true. But that is an ugliness that we need to learn about, not hide from. It won't go away if we all stick our heads in the sand.
Books sometimes express beliefs that are different from our own. But we need to open our minds to the diversity in the world and learn that ours is not the only way.
Books sometimes depict situations or ideas or use language we feel our children are too young for. But that does not mean the book should not be read by anyone, or banned from a library's collection. Everyone is different and parents should be able to decide for themselves if and when their child is ready for any one particular book. Encourage your kids to talk to you about what they're reading -- it might even make important discussions easier.
Books teach us about the world and they teach us about humanity. They teach us about people who are different from us and they teach us how to see things from another's perspective. Reading is a very solitary act, but I truly believe it improves us as human beings when we go out into the world. Books teach us to open our minds and to learn new things. We learn to form opinions and to question what we read. Ever since I learned to read, books have been dear to me. I can't imagine a life without books or a life in which I don't have a choice about what I read.
The funny thing is that forbidden fruit is always sweetest -- by trying to get a book banned, it's likely more people will read it rather than less. I think that is a rather interesting side effect!
To celebrate my right to read what I choose, I offer you a list of frequently challenged books I've read compiled from the ALA's Banned & Challenged Classics, 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books: 1990-1999 & 2000-2009, and Frequently Challenged Books of the 21st Century Lists:
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
1984, by George Orwell
The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling
The Bridge to Teribithia, by Katherine Paterson
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Earth's Children series, by Jean M. Auel
Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes
A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
Grendel, by John Gardner
There are a lot of other great titles on the ALA lists and several I already own, but haven't read yet. I'd like to add to this list and read more before Banned Books Week 2013 comes around -- I'll keep you posted!
Be a rebel, read a Banned Book!