Saturday, September 23, 2006

Banned Books

Banned Books Week: September 23-30, 2006

Celebrate your freedom to read! This annual event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted.

Check the American Library Association’s website for more information, including lists of the most frequently challenged books.

I’d like to share with you my own experience regarding banned books. My junior year in high school (early eighties, small southern town), my English teacher passed out copies of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and told us we would start reading the book the next day. The next day she took the copies back up. Some parents had called the school complaining that the book was inappropriate reading material, and the school decided to ban the book.

Know what happened?

We drove to the next town (there were no bookstores in my little hometown), bought copies of the book, and read it. By making the book forbidden, they’d made it tempting and made us curious. They’d made us WANT to read it.

The inappropriate part? Well, we couldn’t figure out what it was, so we did some sleuthing, and apparently it was the very end of the book when Rose of Sharon breastfeeds a starving man. Trust me when I say that none of us were incredibly shocked by this, nor were we scarred for life as result of reading it.

I have very mixed feelings when it comes to children and banned books. I’m a parent. Do I want some control over what my children read? You bet I do! Some books are not appropriate for children. But while I think parents should have control over their child’s reading material, merely in my personal opinion, I think some parents take this too far.

One of the most challenged books is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, in part because of its frequent use of the 'n' word. So do you just pretend like the 'n' word wasn’t, and still isn’t, used? Pretending something doesn’t exist will not make it cease to exist. My son has read this book, and after he read it WE DISCUSSED IT. That’s the key! Know what your kids are reading and discuss it with them. It may be some of the best conversations you ever have with your children.

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