Monday, October 1, 2012

Celebrating Banned Books Week

Fahrenheit 451It'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!

P.S. I'm also submitting this post to this week's Book Blogger Hop hosted by Soon Remembered Tales.


  1. Read this post I found via twitter #bannedbookweek:

    It's a story of how a teacher tried to use a banned book in her class until a parent flipped out over the masturbation scene and that ended the class reading the book.

    1. What a great post! Thanks for the recommendation.

    2. I can't get this topic out of my head! Having read that post and "witnessing" how a book could get banned at a school, I probably should add that even though parents should get to decide what their children are ready to read, a few parents should not be able to dictate what an entire class or school can or cannot read in the course of their studies. Teachers should be trusted that they choose certain books for a reason, that they will be thoroughly discussed and explained, and that no work of literature should ever be reduced to a few choice words or a scene that makes a handful of people uncomfortable. Kids need to learn to think and ripping a book out of their hands mid-lesson is just absurd!

  2. I have read almost every one of those in high school as required reading. :) They were not banned at that time.

    Stop by to see the list I read. :) My link is below.

    Happy Hopping.

    Silver's Reviews

    1. Thanks for hopping over Elizabeth! It always seems to be that many challenged books are school reading, so that makes sense.

  3. BTW, I love your blog name.

    Silver's Reviews

  4. I've read many banned books -- and am still surprised at some that are on the list! Never realized I was such a rebel. *G*

  5. Lovely celebration of the power of books to open our minds!

  6. It is so good you are standing up against this. I had no idea To Kill A Mocking Bird is regularly chanllabged. Is it actually banned? I read that for a high school english class. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Emily!

      I'm not sure if this is what you meant by your question, but it seems to be a common misperception that there is a list of books that are banned. When I (or anyone else) refers to banned books, we really mean books that are frequently challenged, meaning that people have requested that they be removed from libraries or classrooms. Each individual school or library must deal with these complaints and decide if they are going to remove the book from their collection or curriculum, effectively "banning" the book from the patrons or students of that library or school.

      Any number of books in any number of places have been banned over the years, including To Kill a Mockingbird. Practically speaking, this is very much a localized, case-by-case issue. But by celebrating Banned Books Week, we bring attention to the fact that this is something that still happens and stand up against censorship of literature.

  7. Well, I've already found three books on my current reading lists.

    Banning books is definitely a questionable issue and, as a writer, I'm not keen on it at all. That said, I have to say I've read a few books written for children that have made me really wince and question whether I would really want a young impressionable child reading the book. The more well written a book is, the more powerful.

    I guess that's why there's always such a controversy. :)

    1. I agree that a young child shouldn't necessarily read anything and everything, but I think it's their parents' and teachers' job to guide, teach, and explain rather than to just stick their heads in the sand and pretend things that are uncomfortable don't exist!

      Also, I think there is something to be said for waiting until a child is old enough (or rather, mature enough) to handle a particular topic or book, rather than kicking up a fuss and trying to ban it from a library or school altogether (particularly classics -- I'm not talking about allowing 50 Shades of Grey in a middle school library or anything like that - there has to be some degree of reason & common sense!)

    2. Good points, all. I wish I could remember the book that had such an impact on me. It was a YA and definitely more for the older YA readers than the younger. Unfortunately there's not a lot of supervision, although we'd like to think there is.

      I always agreed in theory but that one time when my reaction to the book caused me to think of my godchild and whether I'd want it made available to her at the school. . . it did give me pause.


I'd love to hear what you think :)